When you are walking through the shopping aisles of your favorite supermarket, picking up items from the shelves and placing them in your trolley, do you really know what you are buying?

Do you really know where the ingredient derived from?

I am going to share some information with you that will or should make you think twice before you take your next shopping trip.

The first ingredient I am going to cover is cochineal.

Cochineal is defined as a red dye made of the dried and pulverized bodies of female cochineal insects and is commonly named in ingredient lists as cochineal, carmine, carminic acid, Natural Red 4 or E120 and can be found in any of the following foods:

  • Frozen meat and fish
  • Soft drinks, fruit drinks, energy drinks, powdered drinks and alcoholic beverages
  • Yogurts, ice cream and dairy-based drinks
  • Candy, syrups, fillings and chewing gum
  • Canned fruits like cherries and jams
  • Dehydrated soups and canned soups
  • Ketchup

Where, What, How?

The cochineal bug is a native insect to South America and Mexico and lives on cactus plants, such as the prickly pear. The female of this species eat red cactus berries which changes the body colour to red. The locals harvest the insects either via small baskets or by hand. These bugs are then poured onto a wooden plank, and then the beetles are either shaken, placed in hot water or an oven to kill them.

Once they bugs have died they are placed outside to dry for two to 3 days, they are then shaken to remove any excess moisture.

It takes a whopping 70,000 bugs to make a pound of dye!!!!

Once the bugs are dried and all the moisture is removed the bugs are crushed water is then added to the crushed insects and low and behold you have red food colouring!

Will you……

Next time you head to the supermarket…

Check the ingredients list?