Artificial Colors and Bugs

artificial colors,food additives,colors added,cochineal bugs,carmine, cochineal-colored
Cochineal Bug

Do you realize that when you use or consume something with “artificial colors” or “colors added,” it’s likely composed of bugs? Foods colored by cochineal bugs are deceptively labeled this way, and products that contain artificial colors are found in everything from cosmetics to foods. Additionally, in case your interested, according to NationMaster, the coloring is acquired by “boiling dried insects in water to extract the carminic acid and then treating the clear solution with alum, cream of tartar, stannous chloride, or potassium hydrogen oxalate.”

If you’re unhappy about bugs in your cookies, the good news is that on January 2, 2009, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) passed a ruling prohibiting manufacturer’s from listing cochineal-colored products under the deceptive names, and, instead, they are requiring that manufacturers of “all foods (including butter, cheese, and ice cream) that contain cochineal extract or carmine specifically declare the presence of the color additive by its respective common or usual name, ‘cochineal extract’ or ‘carmine,’ in the ingredient statement of the food label.”

Apparently, the FDA ruling came after numerous “reports of severe allergic reactions, including anaphylaxis, to cochineal extract-containing food and carmine containing food and cosmetics, and [the new ruling] will allow consumers who are allergic to these color additives to identify and thus avoid products that contain these color additives.” However, as great as that may be, there’s also some bad news. The bad news is the regulation does not go into effect for twenty-four months from the date of the ruling. So, for the next two years, if you buy “color added” or “artificial colors,” keep in mind those products may contain cochineal bug juice.


  1. Yeah I knew about that and it’s pretty gross but then I figure there is all kinds of weird stuff in all kinds of products… even in stuff from Whole Foods, mecca of all things organic and lovely. Whale vomit (ambergris) is a prized perfume ingredient, there’s a dynamite component (diatomaceous earth) in some toothpastes and deodorants, and of course UREA (found in all kinds of cosmetics and stuff)! Formerly extracted from horse urine it is now artificially synthesized, thankfully. Apparently there’s also bat feces (guano!) in mascara. Hurrah.

  2. Ps if you’re checking for bat poo in your mascara or any other cosmetic product also look for “guanine” which is a derivative.

  3. You know, there is a portion of me that says I should be completely grossed out. However, if you look at all the different indigenous tribes of this world, you’ll find many that eat bugs, bats and other potentially less desirable snacks. I’m sure that at one point in our sordid past, we also ate what would now be considered unsavory. And…. there’s always Andrew Zimmern. LOL. In any case, part of me says EWW but the other part says it’s natural and there’s nothing wrong with it. (except maybe the guano. LOL)

  4. I had no idea!!! I guess I’m okay with it, but it’s certainly good to know companies will have to be more open about it. but still….ewww!

  5. I don’t know whether to be fascinated or appalled! I guess with the bugs and bat poo etc. it’s sort of “natural”! My concern is the unnatural ingredients they put in stuff… you know my beef with fake tan in a bottle!

  6. Ignorance is truely bliss.

    But really, when that bug is boiled down, filtered and sepperated, it’s not a bug any more. It’s a “clear solution with alum, cream of tartar, stannous chloride, or potassium hydrogen oxalate.”

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