Bugs in your food


If you've been eating food and drinks dyed various shades of red, orange, pink, and purple, there's a chance you've ingested carmine or cochineal extract. Unlike, say, azodicarbonamide, they fit Michael Pollan's dictum to avoid food products containing ingredients that are unfamiliar or unpronounceable, so no biggie, right?

According to the Times, these extracts are commonly used as dyes in ice cream, yogurt, fruit drinks, and candies, labeled simply as "artificial colors" or "color added." But after a noted allergist found several patients with reactions to the substances, the FDA is now requiring they be listed on labels--though they're not required to note that the color is extracted from the dried bodies of the female cochineal bug.

For now, if you don't want to bug out (for any reason--vegetarianism, religious beliefs, pure and simple squeamishness), avoid products that list carmine or cochineal extract.