I recently stopped my Dad from purchasing a drink from a local store - a fruit drink - as it contained cochineal. He thought I was crazy until I told him what it was. I am all for natural things...but bugs in my food is a culinary experience I am not too excited about. I've known about this ingredient for quite a while, but thought some of you might appreciate the head's up too.
Many yogurts, strawberry drinks, ice cream and other products contain an ingredient called carmine or cochineal. Doesn't sound too terrible but I am a big believer in 'If you don't know what something is on an ingredient list...don't eat it!'.
So, what is cochineal?
It's a bug - the cochineal beetle which lives on cactus plants in Peru, the Canary Islands and other tropical places. The beetle and its eggs have an intense red color which is why it is used for making things we expect to be red, such as strawberry yogurt, look that way. For a while, companies didn't have to list the beetle as anything other than natural coloring or flavoring, but now the FDA has required them to list it as carmine, cochineal or E120 (as of 2011).
Personally, I don't eat any food dyes. Red 40, yellow 5, blue 2, etc are derived from coal tar so I really stay away from them. (This is a great news piece on the topic - The Truth About Food Dyes.) I think this is especially important for people who are vegetarian or vegan and I think we all deserve to know exactly what it is we are feeding our families.
Here is a list of products that were using the cochineal beetle, some may have changed their ways by now, but just be sure to check the labels.
Weight Watcher's Tomato & Herb Pasta Sauce
Dannon Boysenberry yogurt
Elixir Pomegranate Cranberry
SoBe Lean Diet Cranberry Grapefruit
SoBe Lean Diet Mango Melon
SoBe Synergy Fruit Punch
SoBe Synergy Kiwi-Strawberry
SoBe Nirvana Sobe Lizard Fuel
Minute Maid Ruby Red Grapefruit Juice
Ocean Spray Ruby Red Grapefruit Drink
Tropicana Ruby Red Grapefruit Juice
Tropicana Orange Strawberry Banana
Tropicana Tropical Tangerine Fruit Squeeze
Tropicana Sweet Grapefruit Juice
Tropicana Fruit Punch (non-refrigerated)
Tropicana Strawberry Orange Juice (non-refrigerated)
Tropicana Ruby Red Grapefruit Juice Beverage (non-refrigerated)
Tropicana Strawberry Banana Fruit Smoothie
Dole Diced Peaches In Strawberry Gel Fruit Bowl
Robitussin Honey Calmers Natural Throat Drops