Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Pass the Beetles, Please

It is difficult to separate green living from green eating. After becoming conscious of pollutants in our environment, things that pollute the body are also cause for concern.
I am a vegetarian, but I am not an animal activist. However, I was still a little disturbed when I learned that a food additive called CARMINE, used to give red or pink color to foods like yogurt, ice cream, juice, and candy is made from the crushed exoskeletons of COCHINEAL BEETLES. This is completely true, and is even confirmed on Snopes! If you can't trust Snopes, who can you trust?
Here is a statement on a Messianic Jewish website declaring foods made with carmine to be unclean according to the TaNak. It gives a good scientific background:

Cochineal/Carmine is a red dye made from the dried bodies of females of a scale insect, order Homoptera, family Coccoidea (Dactylopius coccus). They have sucking mouthparts that arise from the extreme rear lower part of the head. The females commonly lose their legs and antennae at the first molt, becoming stationary and secreting scale, a waxy protective covering. Males become nonfeeding adults. The coloring agent in cochineal is carminic acid. The insects are brushed from the cacti into bags and then killed by agitation or by heat from hot water, steam, sunlight, or an oven. They are then crushed into powder and processed into a red dye.

Allow me to editorialize: EWWW!
The problem I have with this is not in the fact that insect parts are in our food. I take issue with the fact that this ingredient is typically NOT listed as "carmine" on food labels, but as "artificial coloring". I feel that we should know what we are eating. Aparently eating ground up beetles might even have some health benefits. But that doesn't excuse the sketchy labeling that is approved by the FDA.
Did you know that the FDA has approved the sale of meat and milk from cloned animals to consumers? Did you know that these foods will not have to be labeled as being from a cloned animal? Let the sunshine in, FDA!
Personally I have dined on deep-fried crickets while traveling in South East Asia. But I knew what they were. No one was trying to sell them to me as "deliciously salty brown coloring" or any such nonsense.
Bon Appetite!

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