Give Me Back My Red Dye No. 40!

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Congratulations all you health freaks! You’ve been complaining for years about artificial dyes in your food, your cosmetics, your candy. Well, you’ve finally done it. The pressure to abandon artificial dyes is finally taking hold. The result? More and more companies are using natural food colors to add favorable hues to their products. Sounds good, huh?

The most popular natural dye that’s being used today is called “cochineal.” Sounds so scientific, doesn’t it? I wonder what it is. Um…how about ground up insects! Yummy. That sounds appetizing. That’s right, folks. They’re using crushed beetles to add color to hundreds of U.S. products like yogurt, waffles and even lipstick. And just in case you’re not grossed out enough, let me tell you how they extract the color. They scrape female beetles and their eggs off of cactus leaves and grind them into a powder. Well, that’s humane. I guess PETA doesn’t care about the poor, downtrodden beetle population.

Pressure has been mounting on the FDA for years to ban all artificial colorings. Remember Red Dye no. 2? It got eliminated overnight. (I remember my grave, 12-year-old concern that Bubble Yum was going to lose its soft pink blush).

The price of cochineal (aka carmine) has been going up rapidly with the increase in demand. It already costs 10 to 20 times what artificial colorings cost to get the same color intensity. Demand in South America where it’s harvested has doubled in the past few years.

Of course, some people are highly allergic to it. But, it’s “natural” so it must be better. Even if we lose a few innocents along the way, it’s all part of our natural selection process.

I’m not really sure what the Vegans will say about this. I mean, besides being completely DISGUSTING, any food containing carmine is clearly an animal product. But those of you living in denial, reading your labels and rejoicing at the absence of Red Dye no. 40, you just go ahead and enjoy your rosy pink Dannon yogurt with essence of crushed beetle powder. As for me? Give me back my Red Dye no. 40 and stay out of my synthetic life.