Eating Beetles?
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Diet Diva
Diet Diva

Get advice on healthy eating, nutrition, and weight loss from expert dietitian Tara Gidus. 

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Eating Beetles?


Are you eating beetles? Do you think I am insane for asking the question? As you might have guessed….you might be eating parts of beetles and not realizing it!

Have you ever wondered where the coloring that goes into our foods actually comes from? Some sources of food coloring are synthetic (for example FD&C Red 40, Yellow 5, etc) and these colors need to go through a certification process with the FDA. Other colors are from natural sources of pigment and are exempt from certification because they are natural. These include things like dehydrated beets, paprika, grape skins, carrots, algae, and annatto from a tropical tree. Another source of coloring is carmine from cochineal beetles. You will likely not see carmine listed on the food label, instead you will see it say “color added” or “natural color.”

Where it is
Carmine is commonly used a food coloring in yogurt, ice cream, strawberry milk, maraschino cherries, lobster, surimi (fish made to look like crab), candy, fruit drinks, and other processed foods. It is also found in lipstick, blush, nail polish, and other products.

Is it harmful?
For most people, the carmine dye is not harmful. However, just like many things, certain people are sensitive to it. Because it actually does from a living object, it contains proteins that could cause allergies. Symptoms include itching, hives, headaches, and sneezing. It is thought that the processing at high heat causes people to have a reaction to the dye. At this time the FDA is considering requiring labels declare if they contain carmine, but it is not mandated yet.

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About the Author


MS, RD, CSSD, LD/N

Tara Gidus is a nationally recognized expert and spokesperson on nutrition and fitness.

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