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Eaten any beetle bugs lately?

Eaten any beetle bugs lately?  Most likely you have and didn't even know it.

According to an article released by the Associated Press, the Food and Drug Administration has ruled in favor of the consumer in making food and cosmetic manufacturers identify a somewhat mysterious ingredient on their product labels.

The reason?  Because of numerous allergic reactions brought on by ingesting or using products that have been dyed with the juice of beetles.  The juice comes from the boiled, dried or crushed shells, wings and/or eggs of this tiny, little insect.

No way, you say.  Yes, way... the juice of this particular species of beetle is responsible for red, pink, orange and even some purple coloring in hundreds of products.  Products not made at offshore places like China, but here in the U.S.A.  Products like lipstick, shampoo, nail polish, skin care items, waffles, yogurt, strawberry popsicles and even... candy!

Why has it gone undetected and unnoticed by most consumers?  Because until recently, the dye made from this juicy little insect was simply listed as "color added" in the product's ingredient listing.  Don't be surprised.  The term "color added" is very vague and can actually cover quite a range of unnatural, undesirable ingredients that are being used in the food manufacturing and beauty products industry.

The fact that more and more people are having allergic reactions to it... has brought this unknown little bug into the spotlight where it finally must be dealt with.

The AP article references several anecdotal cases that are published on the FDA's website.  One of a girl who broke out in hives after eating a red ice popsicle.  Another case states that a lady was admitted into and kept in the hospital for 5 days after she ate red candy.  Still another lady that ate strawberry yogurt and drank fruit punch had trouble breathing.

You may or may not find the ingredient listed on a product label.  Some manufacturers are already listing it voluntarily by its technical ingredient name which is carmine or cochineal extract.  Still others balk at the idea altogether.  They want to use it for the beautiful, enticing color it adds to their product... they just don't want you to know about it.

In the article, Mike Jacobson, (Executive Director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest located in Washington) says:  "There is no way to tell how many products contain the dyes, it can be anything red."

The dye made from the insect's crushed, dried body has quite a range of colors.  Cochineal is bright orange, while its more purified form, known as carmine, is vivid red.  It can also be found in purple or pink coloring.

An FDA spokeswoman, Stephanie Kwisnek states "Cochineal extract and carmine are safe for the majority of the general population," and that the "FDA is taking this action to protect the small number of consumers who are allergic to these color additives."

But what about Vegans or those who adhere to strict kosher diets?  Or what about those of us who would simply prefer to not eat or use products that contain insect juice?  Even if you don't have an adverse reaction, I think most of us, if informed and given the opportunity... would chose a product that did NOT contain the juice of an insect versus one that did.  

I can't imagine anyone stepping up to the counter and asking, "Yes, May I have one with beetle juice, please?".  Either way, don't look for the "beetle juice" ingredient listed on your favorite, red or orange colored product anytime soon.  The FDA says the rule won't even take effect for another two years.  And even when it does, it will simply be listed as carmine or cochineal extract which is the common name for the insect derived dyes.

In the meantime, if you want to avoid beetle juice, you may want to consider buying naturally and organically when it comes to buying food and skin care items.  Ones where you can clearly identify the ingredients!


Lynn H. is a contributing editor for Spa Sentiments, the creators of the Spa Sentiments Natural Collection, a new line of skin and spa products made with fresh, pure and natural ingredients that are not only relaxing but also good for the skin.  To learn more about the Spa Sentiments Natural Collection, click here: Spa Sentiments Natural Collection