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Give Me Back My Red Dye No. 40!

Congratulations all you health freaks! You’ve been complaining for years about artificial dyes in your food, your cosmetics, your candy. Well, you’ve finally done it. The pressure to abandon artificial dyes is finally taking hold. The result? More and more companies are using natural food colors to add favorable hues to their products. Sounds good, huh?

The most popular natural dye that’s being used today is called “cochineal.” Sounds so scientific, doesn’t it? I wonder what it is. Um…how about ground up insects! Yummy. That sounds appetizing. That’s right, folks. They’re using crushed beetles to add color to hundreds of U.S. products like yogurt, waffles and even lipstick. And just in case you’re not grossed out enough, let me tell you how they extract the color. They scrape female beetles and their eggs off of cactus leaves and grind them into a powder. Well, that’s humane. I guess PETA doesn’t care about the poor, downtrodden beetle population.

Pressure has been mounting on the FDA for years to ban all artificial colorings. Remember Red Dye no. 2? It got eliminated overnight. (I remember my grave, 12-year-old concern that Bubble Yum was going to lose its soft pink blush).

The price of cochineal (aka carmine) has been going up rapidly with the increase in demand. It already costs 10 to 20 times what artificial colorings cost to get the same color intensity. Demand in South America where it’s harvested has doubled in the past few years.

Of course, some people are highly allergic to it. But, it’s “natural” so it must be better. Even if we lose a few innocents along the way, it’s all part of our natural selection process.

I’m not really sure what the Vegans will say about this. I mean, besides being completely DISGUSTING, any food containing carmine is clearly an animal product. But those of you living in denial, reading your labels and rejoicing at the absence of Red Dye no. 40, you just go ahead and enjoy your rosy pink Dannon yogurt with essence of crushed beetle powder. As for me? Give me back my Red Dye no. 40 and stay out of my synthetic life.

About gettrich

Debra Rich Gettleman is a professional actor, playwright and journalist living in Oklahoma City with her husband Mark and two amazing boys, Levi and Eli.

8 responses to “Give Me Back My Red Dye No. 40!

  1. jojom28 ⋅

    How can you blame us for insects in your food? We are saving you from deadly carcinogens and other toxins. You go ahead and ingest all those dangerous chemicals. You know, beetles are a delicacy in other cultures.


  2. Aleah ⋅

    This disturbs me as a vegetarian, now I have to read my labels even more closely. Wonderful. I would rather ingest dye than disgusting bugs.


  3. cayla

    I never was much of a health freak. I never cared about labels. I ate all the crap I wanted, but that’s changed. I stumbled on the red dye 40 alert when I was talking to an occupational therapist about my son. She recommended me taking the dye out of his diet. I used to think he might have some sort of conduct disorder – more details on my blog. In short, all of the bad behavior disappeared after taking red dye 40 out of his diet. It was like turning on and off a switch. No I’m not some freak who is blaming bad behavior on food, and no the FDA did not check whether or not red dye 40 could induce neurological changes, but it did check to see if you could aquire cancer from it (that was a negative). In my blog, I have copied a letter in which the American Academy of Pediatrics had said that they might have been wrong and that there is enough evidence to suggest that parents eliminate red dye 40 from their children’s diet.
    My husband is a neurologist who completely convinced that this dye can cause neurological changes which can alter mood, worsen adhd symptoms, and can affect motor coordination. Some individuals are more affected depending upon predisposed genes. Overall, it could be an unhealthy choice for all. I agree with you about the bug thing! I don’t like eating bugs either and I choose not to eat those as well. They don’t have to use red dye 40 and they don’t have to use carmine (the cochineal bug). Annatto or beats could be used and you can’t taste them. I hope you change your opinion about this.


  4. Erin ⋅

    I am actually allergic to Red Dye #40. When consumed I go into immediate anaphylactic shock. So I am excited to find products with out it.


  5. Laura

    The fact that some people don’t want their food colored with powdered bugs doesn’t magically transform Red Dye #40 into a safe additive. Why would you conclude that the way to avoid eating bug-based dye is for the FDA to bring back an unhealthful dye? Are those the only two red dyes in existence?

    Why is it okay for some consumers (“health freaks”) to be hurt by Red Dye #40 but not okay for some consumers (“a few innocents”) to be hurt by cochineal?

    You seem to be upset about the consumer advocacy that removed an unwholesome additive (Red Dye #40) from the list of approved ingredients, even though you are advocating removal of an unwholesome additive (cochineal) from the list of approved ingredients.

    Or maybe I don’t understand the point you’re making. :-/


  6. Arnie Onie ⋅

    Sure, I’m all or the right of companies to slowly poison a small percentage of children to increase profits and save beetles.

    Anyway, who nees color in their food anyway? You want color – eat a strawberry.


  7. Danielle ⋅

    You should be ashamed. I can’t believe you are allowed to be a mother, criticising people for raising alarm to artificial substances that are made out of tar and petroleum…. you are an idiot. I would hate to see what your diet consists of. No child should be consuming processed, artificial CHEMICALS. I wish I could punch you in the face.


    • gettrich

      Thanks for your feedback. The thing is, I’d rather teach my child that its okay to ingest a few non-organic substances than to model the kind of name calling and violence you espouse. “Punch me in the face,” Really?


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