Many manufacturers are grabbing every opportunity to emphasize the presence of natural food coloring in the food they sell and quickly abandoning artificial food dyes. Why? They have recognized the craze for natural foods and know that people are looking for healthier alternatives in their diet. A natural food coloring that is becoming so popular in yogurts, candies, jams, sausage, milk, and even cosmetics now is “carmine”. Now, before I tell you what “carmine” is, what does it sound like to you? Some nice herb, flower, or plant?
None of these. It’s a bug, a red beetle.
Now, who is going to suspect that Red 4, Natural Red, E120, Carminic acid, or Crimson Lake are food colorings obtained from some insect! As it’s hardly within the expectation of an average consumer, it does come across as manufacturers being sneaky, vague and elusive in their ingredient declaration, doesn’t it? Can food authorities step out and insist on making things clearer for consumers than now?
Well, in principle, I’m not going against the idea of eating food with a coloring from bug (though, yes, I do feel very uncomfortable about it). The point is, manufacturers should come clean with this natural food coloring if they want to use it. My dictionary defines “carmine” as “a crimson or purplish-red color”. Consumers are going to least expect that “carmine” is actually an animal-based coloring from this living thing called cochineal. Perhaps, if it’s printed as animal-based coloring, cochineal instead of “natural food coloring”, whoever is cautious enough can go look up the dictionary to find out what “cochineal” is, and vegetarians can also immediately avoid it!
At the end of the day, if consumers think they are fine with eating food with carmine added and there’s nothing unhealthy about eating bugs. At least it’s consumers’ final choice and decision. Like in the case of my 11-yr-old niece and seven-yr-old daughter; both knew their packs of sweets have carmine added, both had the ingredient explained, and both surprisingly were not a bit bothered when eating the sweets. And if they are not getting any allergy reactions from ingesting carmine, and don’t find eating sweets with the bug any less appetizing, then I don’t want to stop them from eating them with all my might.
Last warnings: Be extra careful from now on when you pick up a pack of rosy candies or fruit juice. There may be more than meets the eye in “All Natural”, “No Artificial Colorings Added” food labels.
Ruth Tan runs the popular website Benefits of Honey which is an immensely rich, quality resource on honey and its benefits, and a plethora of health-related issues. Discover the amazing health benefits and all the positive spin-offs super-food honey can bring to your life and the lives of your loved ones at http://www.benefits-of-honey.com