Carmine, or cochineal extract, is a coloring agent derived from the crushed pregnant bodies of a type of small parasitic beetle-like insect. Up until last year, food manufacturers didn’t even have to list it on the label, but now, thanks to an FDA petition brought by the Center for Science in the Public Interest, it has to be listed among the ingredients. The consumer group also asked that the dye specifically be identified as “insect-derived” for the benefit of those who try to maintain Kosher, Muslim, vegan, or bug-free diets, but the FDA rejected that part of the petition. Thanks to the burgeoning food movement, though, these “pink slime” ingredients are coming to light and Starbucks was the latest corporation to draw criticism for using cochineal to pinken their strawberry Frappuccinos. Are there any human health implications of bug-based food colors? That’s the topic of my NutritionFacts.org video pick shown above.
When I sift through the medical literature every year, there are three criteria I find myself using. Is it groundbreaking? Is it interesting? Is it practical? Some study results may be interesting and innovative (dog rose berries have five times more antioxidants than blueberries?), but not practical to put into daily practice (what the heck are dog rose berries?). I’m always on the lookout for papers that have real-world implications, data with the potential to affect life’s day-to-day decisions. That’s the reasoning behind my HHH series (of which the above video is an example), presenting the latest data on whether various foods and substances are bad for you, neither good nor bad, or good for you:
Harmful, Harmless, or Helpful?
Michael Greger, M.D.
Image credit: madprime / Flickr