Labeling of bug-based food colorings will help some consumers
By Michael F. Jacobsen Center for Science in the Public InterestNews
Jan. 6, 2009, WA – After a decade-long gestation period, the Food and Drug
Administration (FDA) has ordered that food and cosmetics manufacturers that
color their products with carmine and cochineal list them by name in ingredient
Until now, these colorings, extracted from the dried bodies
of the tiny cochineal bug, have been hidden under the terms “artificial colors”
or “color added.” Naming those ingredients on labels will help people who
suffered allergic reactions determine if the colors were the culprits.
That’s useful progress, says the Center for Science in the Public Interest
(CSPI), but ideally the FDA should have exterminated these critter-based
colorings altogether. The only way people can determine that they are sensitive
to them is to suffer repeated reactions, including potentially life-threatening
anaphylactic reactions. Also, says the CSPI, the FDA should have required
labels to disclose that carmine and cochineal are extracted from insects, which
many consumers, such as vegetarians, would be interested to know.
CSPI petitioned the FDA in 1998 to require labeling after a study by a
University of Michigan allergy expert discovered that carmine was the cause
of an allergic reaction in one of his patients. Subsequently, CSPI received
adverse-reaction reports from several dozen consumers. Yet carmine and
cochineal extract remain in dozens of reddish-colored foods and beverages,
including fruit drinks, ice creams, yogurts, and candies.
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