Yum Yum – Why you may have been eating insects your whole life

The thought of eating bugs doesn’t appeal to me, particularly if I can identify them on my plate – pulverized, unidentifiable, mushed in my food, doesn’t bother me.  Now that I’ve read this article I stand somewhere in-between revulsion and delectable.

Tasty by judy

One of the most widely used red food colorings – carmine – is made from crushed up cochineal insects, native to Latin America where they live on cacti.  Farmed mainly in Peru, millions of the tiny insects are harvested every year to produce the coloring.

A staple of the global food industry, carmine is added to everything from yoghurt, ice cream, to fruit pie, soft drinks, cupcakes and donuts. (the delectable part)

It is also used extensively in the cosmetics industry and is found in many lipsticks. (makes me not want to lick my lips)

Cochineal on a cactusImage copyright MARK WILLIAMSON/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY Cochineal insects, the white dots on this cactus, are found across Latin America

Here are the facts:

  • The bugs, which are about 5mm or 0.2 inches long, are brushed off the pads of prickly pear cacti.
  • It’s the wingless females that are harvested, rather than the flying males. (I’m bugged by this discrimination)
  • The insects are dried and then crushed to produce the red coloring
  • It takes up to 70,000 individual insects to produce just 500g of dye
  • The red color comes from carminic acid, which makes up almost a quarter of the bugs’ weight, and deters predation by other insects (and promotes predation by humans)

“I’d love a mouthful”

Look for the word “carmine” on a food product that contains it or “natural red four”, “crimson lake” or E120.

Carmine is a very stable and reliable natural food dye that can be used to create a wide range of colours – pinks, oranges, purples, as well as reds.

Supporters also point out that it is a natural product first discovered and used by the Maya and then the Aztecs more than five centuries ago. They claim that it is far healthier than artificial alternatives such as food coloring, rings made from coal or petroleum by-products. (double yum)

Click here to read the entire article: http://www.bbc.com/news/business-43786055

2 thoughts on “Yum Yum – Why you may have been eating insects your whole life

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