Bug Juice

If you scroll down a little bit, you’ll see a post I wrote about healthy juice drinks.  Today I grabbed a Sobe Life Water Pomegranate Cherry. It tasted pretty good.  The main problem was that it had too much sugar — 24 grams in the bottle.  A lot less than in a Coke but still a lot more than necessary.  It has some vitamins in it which is good.  I was a little disappointed not to see pomegranate or cherry juice listed under the ingredients but it looks like they’re covered under “natural flavors.”

Then I noticed another ingredient:  “cochineal extract (color).”  Turns out, cochineal is a bug.  More accurately, according to Wikipedia, “The Cochineal (Dactylopius coccus) is a scale insect in the suborder Sternorrhyncha, from which the crimson-coloured dye carmine is derived. A primarily sessile parasite…”  So Sobe Lifewater has dead bugs in it.  I guess that’s better than live bugs.

A female cochineal beetle.

But it gets better.  Wikipedia goes on:  “The insect produces carminic acid that deters predation by other insects. Carminic acid, which occurs as 17-24% of the weight of the dry insects, can be extracted from the insect’s body and eggs and mixed with aluminum or calcium salts to make carmine dye (also known as cochineal).[1] Carmine is today primarily used as a food colouring and for cosmetics.”

I had to admit, the drink did have a nice, reddish/maroon color. More: “Cochineal is one of the colours that the Hyperactive Children’s Support Group recommends be eliminated from the diet of hyperactive children.”

So I went to a drug store and looked at some of the red drinks.  Sure enough, some of them had “cochineal” in them.  Actually, it’s in a lot of foods:  “Together with ammonium carmine they can be found in meatsausages, processed poultry products (meat products cannot be coloured in the United States unless they are labeled as such), surimimarinades, alcoholic drinks, bakery products and toppings, cookiesdesserts, icings, pie fillings, jams, preserves, gelatin desserts, juice beverages, varieties of cheddar cheese and other dairy products, sauces, and sweets.”

The good news is that the Food and Drug Administration will require all foods and cosmetics containing cochineal in them to be labeled as such, starting NEXT YEAR (January 5, 2011).

How about using beet juice or purple carrot juice for coloring?  Not a sermon, just a thought.

Or maybe just switch to water.

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