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The Gross Truth about Natural Colors

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The Gross Truth about Natural Colors

Many consumers may not yet be aware that the red substance coloring their food, fabric, cosmetics or pharmaceuticals could be extracted from the crushed bodies of insects.

The words Cochineal, Cochineal Extract, Carmine, Crimson Lake, Natural Red 4, C.I. 75470, E120, and even some ‘natural colorings’ refer to a dye called ‘carminic acid’, which is primarily used as a food coloring and in cosmetics.

Carminic acid is a substance found in high concentration in cochineal insects. It is extracted from the insect’s body and eggs and is mixed with aluminum or calcium salts to make carmine dye (also known as cochineal).

In good news for those of us looking to avoid the products of animal exploitation, the ingredient must be included on packaging labels when used as a food additive, as it has been known to cause severe allergic reactions, asthmatic attacks, and anaphylactic shock in some people.

As of January 5, 2011, a new U.S. Food and Drug Administration regulation will require all foods and cosmetics containing cochineal to declare it on their ingredient labels, due to objections from people who have concerns for reasons of health, ethics or religion.

Image: Suat Eman /

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Read more: Animal Rights, Conscious Consumer, Diet & Nutrition, Food, Health, Pets, Vegan

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Angel Flinn

Angel Flinn is Director of Outreach for Gentle World – a non-profit educational organization whose core purpose is to help build a more peaceful society, by educating the public about the reasons for being vegan, the benefits of vegan living, and how to go about making the transition.


+ add your own
2:43PM PST on Feb 2, 2011


5:47AM PST on Jan 24, 2011

Vanessa, do you think insects are not animals? They too are part of the animal kingdom.

4:40PM PST on Jan 23, 2011


10:23AM PST on Jan 22, 2011

I wouldn't care except it's unclean for me. We can only eat grasshoppers and crickets in the insect family.

1:16PM PST on Jan 14, 2011

Ewww. But I'm glad it's not an animal product.

3:45PM PST on Dec 26, 2010

Didn't know this, so good to know

12:32AM PST on Dec 26, 2010

all i can see theses days is that white stuff(snow)

2:58AM PST on Dec 25, 2010


2:58AM PST on Dec 25, 2010


2:58AM PST on Dec 25, 2010


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