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CSPI Says Proposed Rule on Insect-based Food Coloring Doesn't Go Far Enough


In response to a legal petition filed in 1998 by the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is proposing a new labeling regulation that would require food companies to disclose when the red or orange color in a food product comes from cochineal extract, or carmine. FDA will not, however, require companies to list the source of those food colorings: the tiny, dried bodies of the cochineal beetle.

These colorings, which can now be listed on labels as "artificial color," cause severe allergic reactions in a small number of consumers. The proposed rule would be helpful to them, according to CSPI, but vegetarians, Jews who try to keep Kosher, and anyone else who might not care to eat extracts of six-legged critters will be left in the dark. CSPI wants the FDA to require that the phrase "insect-based" follow carmine or cochineal extract on ingredients lists.

"Why not use a word that people can understand?" asked CSPI executive director Michael F. Jacobson. "Sending people scurrying to the dictionary or to Google to figure out what 'carmine' or 'cochineal' means is just plain sneaky. Call these colorings what they are-insect-based."

The coloring is used in juice drinks, yogurts, and candies, and gives the Italian apertif Campari its signature red color.

Members of the public, food companies, and other interested parties have 60 days to file comments with the FDA before the rule is finalized. The rule would not go into effect until 2009.