The Red Dye Issue

red dye tubeSo, in my previous post about “Vegans who dye their hair” I asserted it might be hypocritical of me to decide to be vegan and then to use red dye in making vegan lucky charms like my fellow blogger over at Fork & Beans.

However, I went and did a little hunting on the subject and thought you might like to learn more about it too.

Cochineal is a red dye made from insects. It takes 70,000 insects to make a pound of cochineal and the insect-derived red dye is used in many manufactured foods and beverages as a safe dye for humans to ingest, the synthetic alternative having been found to cause problems in people when taken internally. (See full article here)

Not all food stuff contains this cochineal, though, and surprisingly, at least to me, Red #40 is NOT made from insects, but is instead bug-free and made from coal.
Read more:
The Chemistry of Red #40
History of Red #40
An entire website all about Red#40 (yes, I was surprised too)

Other names for cochineal extract are “Carmine, Ponceau 4R, Cochineal Red A, Brilliant Scarlet, New Coccine, SX Purple” (Source)

Starbucks apparently switched just this last year (March 2012) to using a tomato based lycopene dye in their foods rather than the cochineal they had been using. They had opted for cochineal as it was “natural” rather than synthetic. It angered so many vegans, though, that they changed. (read about that fiasco here)

There’s a cool little outline of cochineal extract here.

I tried to find a comprehensive list of popular products on the market today which contain cochineal, but it seems like many other things, you will have to read the label. Here are some websites that help, and let me know if you guys find a list somewhere.

eBrandAid “Color This Creepy”

Food Intolerance Network “120 Cochineal”

Money Matters “Say No To Foods With Cochineal”

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