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Red Cactus Beetle Ingredient To Be Labeled

Posted by Jane Akre
Wednesday, January 07, 2009 2:35 PM EST
Category: Major Medical, Protecting Your Family
Tags: FDA and Prescrition Drugs, Grocery Manufacturers of America, Red Food Dye, Food Labels



The red dye from a female beetle will have to be on the ingredient label says the FDA.



IMAGE SOURCE: Wikimedia Commons, Dried female cochineal insects/ author Sprinky


The label on candies, yogurts, ice cream, or make-up might include a generic mention of "food dye" in the ingredients, nothing that would raise any more eyebrows than the countless other unpronounceable and unknown ingredients used on a daily basis.

But the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) this week published a rule requiring manufacturers who use a food and cosmetic dye known as carmine, or cochineal extract, to label it in food and cosmetics.  The agency wants to avoid dangerous anaphylactic reactions in people allergic to the food coloring that comes from the dried bodies of an insect. 

The female Dactylopius coccus is the best source of the delicious red food coloring that is permitted to be used in food and drugs and cosmetics in the U.S. The insect loves to eat cactus and comes from the Americas, reports ABC News.

The FDA has issued the proposed rule in response to several reports of severe allergic reactions to cochineal extract and carmine-containing foods and cosmetics.  

The FDA says that cochineal extract and carmine are allergens for a small subset of the allergic population, but are not “major food allergens,” such as milk, eggs, fish, and shellfish or tree nuts. About 14 reports of adverse reactions have been collected during a 10-year period.

In 1998, the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) petitioned the FDA to take action to protect consumers who are allergic to the insect-origin coloring.  The final ruling does not go as far as CSPI wanted- to band the ingredient entirely or have it labeled as “insect-derived.”  

That might be useful information to someone who follows a particular religious diet restriction or vegetarians, the group says in a statement.

Interested persons were given until May 1, 2006 to comment on the proposed rule.  The FDA says it received 159 responses

The Federal Register notes that the ruling has a preemptive effect which precludes any state from issuing any food labeling requirements for the insect coloring that differs from the federal rule.

So look for labels that say, “Contains carmine as a color additive” or “cochineal extract,”  which could also appear on the labels starting in 2011. #

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