If you’ve been following along with our “gross shit in food” series, you already know that gelatin and casein are big-time offenders in this arena. Next up is an ingredient that you might never have heard of, but that is about to change. You’re gonna want to go ahead and prepare your gag reflexes.


How many bugs are in YOUR food? :O :O :O

Posted by peta2 on Tuesday, February 16, 2016


Carmine = red pigment from the crushed female cochineal insect


Cochenille z02.jpg (image modified by adding text) | Zyance | CC by 2.5 

cochineal bug

cochineal opuntia Peru (image modified by adding text) | Putneymark | CC by SA 2.0 

Reportedly, 70,000 beetles must be killed to produce one pound of this red dye.

The controversy surrounding the use of carmine as red coloring in some foods is nothing new. Just last year, it was discovered that coffee king Starbucks was using the ingredient in its Strawberry Frappuccino. After a concerned gal from Greenville, South Carolina, started a Change.org petition against the red coloring (which is made from DEAD BUGS, just in case you’ve forgotten), the company agreed to remove carmine from the drink.

change.org starbucks petition


The dye, sometimes referred to as Natural Red 4 (but not to be confused with Red 40), can be found in a handful of places, such as:

    • Cosmetics
    • Shampoos
    • Red applesauce
    • Other foods (including red lollipops, yogurt, drinks, and food coloring)

Not only is the thought of devouring dead bugs super-icky, the ingredient has also been known to cause severe allergic reactions and anaphylactic shock in some people. YIKES.

So how can you avoid it?

Simple! Check. The. Ingredients. If you find “carmine,” “cochineal extract,” or “Natural Red 4” listed, drop whatever product you’re holding and head for the hills. Oh, and if you need red food dye for your own culinary purposes, try using beet juice instead! And because I worry that the gravity of this disgustingness might not have sunk in properly, I’m just gonna leave this here:


Photo: Lorenzo Tlacaelel | CC by 2.0