Are Artificial Colors Harmful?

Are Artificial Colors Harmful?
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The potential health effects of colorings such as cochineal, a food dye derived from crushed insects.

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Is it true that there’s a food dye made out of crushed bugs? Fact or fiction? Fact!

And here she is; the pregnant cochineal beetle. This is what she looks like when you smoosh them, and this is what it looks like when you lick them. And it doesn’t say “contains bugs” on the label; it says things like “color added.” So when parents feed their children yogurt, for example, they may be feeding them a “Strawberry Splash” of boiled insects.

Unappetizing? Perhaps, but harmful? Bug juice is, after all, a “natural” color—I mean, there’s nothing artificial about bugs. In fact, the reason they use them is because some of the artificial red dyes, like Red #3, were banned as carcinogens.

But who still thinks they’re still harmful? Who thinks gross, but harmless? Anyone think they could maybe use the extra protein?

Cochineal beetle extract is harmful. Sends hundreds of people to the emergency room every year. So potentially dangerous that the Center for Science in the Public Interest has called for all bug-based dyes to be exterminated. The FDA—the Food and Drug Administration—refuses to ban it, but they did announce this year that they will at least start requiring it to be listed in the ingredients, instead of just being “color added”.

Good news for those of us who’d rather listen to the beetles than eat any. Of course, the labeling law won’t go into effect until 2011. But until then, I have a suggestion for food companies: should you want to make your cherry popsicles red, how about adding some cherries?

To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by veganmontreal.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Is it true that there’s a food dye made out of crushed bugs? Fact or fiction? Fact!

And here she is; the pregnant cochineal beetle. This is what she looks like when you smoosh them, and this is what it looks like when you lick them. And it doesn’t say “contains bugs” on the label; it says things like “color added.” So when parents feed their children yogurt, for example, they may be feeding them a “Strawberry Splash” of boiled insects.

Unappetizing? Perhaps, but harmful? Bug juice is, after all, a “natural” color—I mean, there’s nothing artificial about bugs. In fact, the reason they use them is because some of the artificial red dyes, like Red #3, were banned as carcinogens.

But who still thinks they’re still harmful? Who thinks gross, but harmless? Anyone think they could maybe use the extra protein?

Cochineal beetle extract is harmful. Sends hundreds of people to the emergency room every year. So potentially dangerous that the Center for Science in the Public Interest has called for all bug-based dyes to be exterminated. The FDA—the Food and Drug Administration—refuses to ban it, but they did announce this year that they will at least start requiring it to be listed in the ingredients, instead of just being “color added”.

Good news for those of us who’d rather listen to the beetles than eat any. Of course, the labeling law won’t go into effect until 2011. But until then, I have a suggestion for food companies: should you want to make your cherry popsicles red, how about adding some cherries?

To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by veganmontreal.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Image thanks to foodfacts.com

Doctor's Note

Check out these videos for more on the harmful effects of insect-derived ingredients:
Bug Appétit: Barriers to Entomophagy
Cheese Mites and Maggots

And check out my other videos on food additives

Also see my associated blog posts: Adding FDA-Approved Viruses to Meat and Soy milk: shake it up!

If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here.

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