I've just been told that some of the red food coloring that is put in things such as yoplait yogurt comes from the crushed bodies of insects. Is this real life?
"The insects are carefully brushed from the cacti... and placed into bags. The bags are taken to the production plant and there, the insects are then killed by immersion in hot water or by exposure to sunlight, steam or the heat of an oven. It is to be noted that the variance in appearance of commercial cochineal is caused by the different methods used during this process. It takes about 70,000 insects to make one pound (454 gm) of cochineal. The body of one coccineal is said to contain between 18-20% of carminic acid.
The part of the insect that contains the most carmine is the abdomen that houses the fertilized eggs of the coccineal. Once dried, a process begins whereby the abdomens and fertilized eggs are separated from the rest of the anatomical parts. These are then ground into a powder and cooked at temperatures in excess of 212? F (100? C) to extract the maximum amount of color. This cooked solution is filtered and through special processes that cause all carmine particles to precipitate to the bottom of the cooking container. The liquid is removed and the bottom of the container is left with pure carmine."To prepare carmine, the powdered scale insect bodies are boiled in ammonia or a sodium carbonate solution, the insoluble matter is removed by filtering, and alum is added to the clear salt solution of carminic acid to precipitate the red aluminium salt, called "carmine lake" or "crimson lake.Carmine is used as a food dye in many different products such as juices, ice cream, yogurt, and candy, and as a dye in cosmetic products such as eyeshadow and lipstick. Although principally a red dye, it is found in many foods that are shades of red, pink, and purple. As a food dye it has been known to cause severe allergic reactions and anaphylactic shock in some people.
Food products containing carmine-based dye may be a concern for people allergic to carmine, or people choosing not to consume any or certain animals, such as vegetarians, vegans, and followers of religions with dietary law (e.g., kashrut in Judaism and halaal in Islam).A request from the Center for Science in the Public Interest (article titled: "FDA Urged to Improve Labeling of or Ban Carmine Food Coloring") to require ingredient labels to explicitly state that carmine may cause severe allergic reactions and anaphylactic shock and that it is derived from insects was declined by the FDA. Food industries were aggressively opposed to the idea of writing "insect-based" on the label, and they finally agreed to putting simply "carmine."Carmine is approved as dye for foodstuffs. In January 2009, FDA passed a new regulation requiring carmine and cochineal to be listed by name on the label.
Although concerns over hazards from allergic reactions have been asserted, the FDA has not banned the use of carmine and states it found no evidence of a "significant hazard" to the general population. As with many chemical compounds, the dye may still pose an allergen hazard to a subset of the population.
Colored with Carmine: