Food Additives

Beetle Mania

If you like Yoplait strawberry yogurt, Tropicana grapefruit, orange-strawberry juice, or Hershey's Good & Plenty candies, chances are you will be sucking on the red coloring extracted from the female cochineal beetle and her eggs. These insects live on cactus plants in Peru and the Canary Islands.

According to the best-selling book by Eric Schlosser, Chew on This, the female bug feeds on cactus pads, and color from the cactus gathers in her body. The bugs are collected, dried, and ground into a coloring additive. It takes 70,000 of the insects to make a pound of carmine dye, as it is known. The Food & Drug Administration doesn't require that this cochineal be identified in the ingredients. Manufacturers simply identify it as an "artificial color."

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