Cochineal Extract

Had a Snapple Pink Lemonade recently. What’s the phrase I’m looking for. Pedestrian workmanship, maybe? Bursting with adequatulence? Like many Snapple flavors it’s no alarms, no surprises. I guess I like my juices a little more risky. It’s fine enough. Although halfway through drinking it I almost threw up and had to pull the car over.

I remembered that I shouldn’t be drinking pink beverages without reading the label. You’re an omnivore so you probably don’t care about things like this, but veggies like me live in fear of cochineal extract. Cochineal is a bug that is known for its red coloring. It’s commonly used in a juices and lipsticks. They live on cacti and they’re harvested, killed, dried out, pulverized, and then poured into the vats of whatever’s brewing. Ruby Red Grapefruit juice was the big culprit back in the day.

I still remember the first time I learned about this. In college, this girl I was hot for was in the Animal Rights group on campus. One time she came up to me and was like: “Don’t ever drink Ruby Red Grapefruit juice. It has cochineal extract in it.”

I was like: “What’s a cochineal?”

And she was all: “I don’t know, man, but it’s got a fused ganglia.”

That was as intimate as we ever ended up getting, but ever since then I’m on the lookout.

Cochineal is also known as carmine, so be advised. But lately I haven’t seen either used much. Pretty much all of the pink and red juices and sodas, Snapple Pink Grapefruit included, have switched back over to Red 40, which is what you want. Ruby Red doesn’t use cochineal anymore, to the best of my knowledge, but they use something called canthaxanthin. Canthaxanthin is actually still an animal product, common in pinkish animals like shrimp and flamingos. It can be harvested as well as created in a lab. It’s a gray area but I steer clear just to be safe. The idea of drinking a juice that is in any way connected to bugs or flamingos is grody. Have you ever smelled a flamingo? That’s not what I want to be thinking of mid-guzzle.

16 thoughts on “Cochineal Extract”

  1. I don’t want anything made of coal tar (red 40) or an oil seep, which is where Red 40 (-hydroxy-5-[(2-methoxy-5-methyl-4-sulfophenyl)azo]-2-naphthalenesulfonic acid) comes from.

  2. What is wrong with Cochineal extract? If what I read is true, then it is an all natural ingredient, which is what you would want, hippie. Sure it’s made of bugs, but all of your food contains traces of bugs (especially fruit). So it really isn’t bad news. As John said, Red 40 seems worse.

  3. I am not a vegetarian or vegan or anything, but I refuse to eat anything containing insects and am infuriated that the government does not require the fact that a beverage contains them to be acknowledged on the label. I just found out about this today, and have looked through all the red food I have to make sure I don’t eat any Cochineal extract or Carmine. I want to sign a petition or something to have it banned or make it mandatory to put a warning label on food or beverages containing this heinous atrocity of a coloring. It’s just sickening to think that I have been unwillingly eating bugs my entire life. I hope all the companies that use it go out of business.

  4. I just found out about this last night reading First magazine. There was a very small article about it. I felt the need to tell everybody at my daughter’s dance class. I did tell one person, and she was pretty sickened like I was. I don’t understand how these companies can get away with this. There has to something else they can use. I threw out all my food with these labels. I think I will become a vegetarian now.

  5. I just found out about this reading the back of a Listerine (citrus flavor) bottle… looked up cochineal extract and… ew! I’m not a vegetarian, but this is enough to turn me around! What bothers me is, how much other stuff like this is in all of the things we consume? What kind of people are we that marketing geniuses think we need dead insects to color our food so we’ll buy it? Things that make you go “huh.”

  6. Does the extract from Carmine, and Cochineal contain the blood of the insect. Is this why the colouring appears to be a strong red colour??
    Sorry if someone else has previously asked this question.
    please anyone, reply back

  7. No, it’s not the blood that makes it red. I got this from the FDA website – YIKES.
    “Cochineal is a dye made from dried and ground female bodies of the scale insect Dactylopius coccus costa (Coccus cacti L.). Powdered cochineal is dark purplish red. The chief coloring principle in cochineal is carminic acid, a hydroxyanthraquinone linked to a glucose unit. Cochineal contains approximately 10 percent carminic acid; the remainder consists of insect body fragments.”
    So, the red comes from the pigmentation of the insect’s body, not its blood. Not that that’s any better. Ugh, man this is gross.
    Here’s the whole FDA file on cochineal extract/carmine:

  8. If a couple of little red-dye bugs shakes everyone up, read the FDA rules for the “allowable amounts” of rat feces, animal hair and parts in packaged foods and beverages. That will really make you pull over to the side of the road. — Dyelady

  9. I steer away from cochineal because I am a vegan, but for the rest of you guys, I don’t really see the problem. There is nothing about bugs that make them less healthy and appetizing than your average dead animal. This cannot possibly be the worst thing you are putting in your body. It’s cruel, yes, but I don’t understand the bit about it being physically repulsive.

  10. Also, to the guy who’s mad that manufacturers don’t have to clearly state that you are eating bugs, many alcoholic beverages have some weird, weird animal products in them, and they don’t even have to have a list of ingredients. If you’re concerned, check that out too.

  11. Hell, if you’re worried about miscellaneous animal matter then you better avoid sugar altogether. As you probably know processed sugar is either made from beets or cane. Beet sugar is vegan as it does not need filtration, but cane sugar is charcoal filtered and about 60% of the time, that charcoal comes from animal bones! And most ingredients lists don’t specify what source the sugar came from!!

  12. hey all..
    there was a case against coca cola firm in antalya(a province of turkey). it was about the ingredient of cola which didnt announce publicily and kept secret. why am i telling this? because due to result of the case this ingredient was announced that it s the bug itself (not it s blood or any part) in famous coca-cola..

  13. It takes 70,000 female insects to make 1lb of cochineal. They are tipped alive into hot water, before being crushed to make the dye. It is the principal colourant in Campari as well as many other foodstuffs, especially cakes. The alternative, E124 (Ponceau 4R) is derived from coal tar and salt which has been in use since the 1870’s. It is the col0urant in Irn-Bru and McDonald’s strawberry milkshake. But not in the US or Norway, which has banned E124, largely due to its links with hyperactivity in children.

  14. I can only wonder why everyone wants all these food stuffs to be COLORED in the first place???
    It does not change the taste. It is only one more unhealthy and unecessary additive put into to our bodies. What for, so that the fake flavorings can also have fake colors???
    I say get rid of all unecessary colorings period!!!

  15. yesterday I went to our local health store to buy my normal lip medicine called Lip rescue. they didn’t have any and so the lady working there told me about how much she just LOVES “Burt’s Bee’s replenishing lip balm with pomegranate oil. so I figure I will give it a shot. she said it has a slight very slight red pigment. I thought nothing of it.
    so all yesterday I was using it. then last night I decided to check the ingredients. I am a vegetarian and also am as close to 100% cruelty free as I can be. I buy nothing containing anything that is tested on animals, I don’t wear leather, I don’t have anything with feathers including pillows. and what is the 2nd to the last ingredient? Carmine! UGH! so I am so angry at myself because I knew about the damn carmine and the stupid balm is red. from now on i will check first. it’s disgusting that we don’t make red coloring with something not derived from the killing of anything including insects. humanity is disgusting!

  16. Just for your information Minute Maid still uses cochineal extract–for color it states on the label–still.

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