“Excuse me, but there’s a bug in my makeup”
Recently you may have heard the outcry when it was discovered by this dish is veg that some of Starbucks’ vegan friendly wares, the soy based Strawberries & Crème Frappuccino and Strawberry Smoothies, were not actually, well…vegan.
Due to a recent (but short lived) change in ingredients, Starbucks was using cochineal extract, also known as carmine, as a red colorant in their strawberry flavored products. While this dye is “all natural” it is not vegan. In fact, cochineal extract is produced by grinding the dried shells, wings and eggs of the female cochineal beetle.
Ewww…let’s lessen the sting of that that mental image by viewing Stephen Colbert’s take on the situation.
|The Colbert Report||Mon – Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c|
|Thought for Food – Bug Food Coloring, Hot-Dog-Stuffed Crust & Drugged Poultry|
Since beetle-gate broke, it’s important to note that Starbucks has revised their recipe, replacing the cochineal extract with a plant based red colorant. Even better, while many vegans were aware of the use of this bug-derived colorant, the controversy alerted many consumers to the wide spread popularity of the dye in our foods.
With the shift away from synthetic dyes, this natural (but kind of gross) colorant can be found in all types of foods including meat, sausages, processed poultry products, marinades, alcoholic drinks, cookies, desserts, icings, pie fillings, jams, preserves, gelatin desserts and juice beverages (source: Wikipedia).
But did you know that this dye is often used in makeup as well?
It’s true. You’ll find carmine in many cosmetics. Most often lipsticks, but it can be found in all types of products – including glosses, blushes and eye shadows – with pink, red and even purple hues. So if you are a vegetarian, going cruelty-free in your makeup purchases or just a little squeamish at the thought, you’ll want to carefully read the labels for this additive.
Additionally, it should be noted that cochineal extract has been found to cause serious allergic reactions for some people, with consequences ranging from hives, rashes and itchy skin to more severe issues including asthma attacks and anaphylactic shock. If you find certain products cause a skin reaction, check the label, as carmine could be the culprit.
Bear in mind, the use of cochineal bug extract has a long and storied history dating back to the 15th century. So unless you’re one of the unlucky that are allergic, it should not hurt you. In fact, you’ve probably been eating and wearing these ground up beetles for years. It’s just one of those things that’s nice to know, so we can decide for ourselves if it’s something we can live with in the name of beauty (or dessert).
For years, manufacturers hid their use of this dye by calling cochineal extract names like natural red 4, C.I. 75470, E120, and even “natural coloring” on their labels. However, here in the States, the FDA has declared that as of January 2011 all cosmetic, food and beverage manufacturers that use cochineal bug extract to color their products must declare this ingredient on the label.
To check for this color additive in your food or cosmetics, check the label for the words “cochineal extract” or “carmine”. And while the FDA took the step to make companies declare the ingredient in their goods, they are not forced to explain the origins – insects. For many, “carmine” is just another odd word on their label, so pass the information on to friends and family that may appreciate it. After all “the more you know…”
Readers – are you bugged out by this color additive? Or do subscribe to the notion that all’s fair in love, food and beauty?
Tyna, co-founder and co-editor of wht, worries about becoming a crazy cat lady, reads at least a book a week, checks in at a Flyers fan forum every morning and is forever (some say obsessively) organizing her closets and drawers.