>Here's the article that inspired me to try to get a grip on the
>possibly dangerous products out there.
and cited an article about cochineal used as a reddening agent. Ross,
if cochineal is the most dangerous thing you're eating, kiss the next
insect you meet and thank it.
First of all, I would like someone to inform Bob Harris that
cochineal is made from the crushed bodies of the insect itself
(/Dactylopus coccus/), not from their eggs. Stick that in your Yickie
Mill and grind it.
Check out the Web site for Allegro Natural Dyes to learn more.
I've appended a piece on cochineal at the bottom of this message. The
problem, if any, isn't in the Bug Parts, but in how those natural
resins are chemically altered in modern labs.
Second of all, I would like someone to inform Bob Harris that a good
portion of his own gut is comprised of living, dying, and dead
creatures who digest his food for him and whom he, in turn, digests.
And so did his Mom. None are as large as a beetle, mind you, but if
he's worrying about ingesting "throbbing" things, gut ecology in any
species, humans included, is a good place to look.
What is the alternative to this naturally occurring and simply
extracted ancient resin? Perhaps one might think of "food coloring."
You know, those benign little bottles that we associate with Easter
Some of those are petrochemical dyes, and basically byproducts of the
refining process. As any aggie who grew up in a refinery/port town
can tell you, there's a lot of Stuff left over from a barrel of crude
oil, after you take out the things you want, like gasoline. Chemists
working for the petrochemical industry in the early part of this
century went hog-wild finding uses for the byproducts of oil cracking
and refining. Some of them found their way into our food chain as
colorings, flavorings, texture conditioners, etc. And into cosmetics
and body care products as well, which often is the same as eating
them. None that I know of have been tested for long term, low-dose,
immune, endocrine, neurological, developmental, or interactive
I find it intriguing that people who'd think nothing of ingesting
petrochemicals, pesticides, and polymers will gack vociferously at
the thought of having some beetle parts in their food. Humans have
been eating insects for a long time, and they, need I remind us all,
have been eating us for about that long. Synthetic ingredients date
back no longer than 50-100 years.
We have chemical, oil company, and other PR departments to thank for
the fact that the viscous after-remains of dead plant and animal life
from the Carboniferous Era (300 million years ago), devoid of any
life whatever, heated and cooled and oxygenated and et ceteraed, are
considered "cleaner" and "healthier" than the simple living squiggle
and goo to which we owe our vital existence.
In the ancient world of the Aztecs, carmine was the homage of kings.
It was considered more valuable than gold. This bright red colorant
required the labor
of hundreds of subjects combing the desert in search of the cochineal
insect. It is believed that around 1518, Cortez discovered the Aztecs
To the Spaniards, it was an amazing colorant and considerably
stronger than other dyes used in Europe. The Spanish government
turned it into a lucrative
export but the Europeans were never told of its insect origin. This
insect Dactylopus coccus costa attaches itself to specific varieties
of cactus (Opuntia or
Nopalea) found in the semi-arid areas of Peru, Bolivia, Chile, The
Canary Islands, and Mexico. Collection of the insects is a cottage
industry, but development of plantations and deliberate seeding of
the cacti is on the increase in all the producing areas.
The colorant is extracted from the bodies of female insects just
prior to egg-laying time and as such, may contain from 10 to 20% of
their dry weight of the
color principle chemically called carminic acid. The collected
insects are dried and extracted with alkalized hot water or alkalized
hot water containing low
levels of ethanol. It is estimated that about 25 million insects are
required to make 32 pounds of water-soluble extract. The extract is
processed to be totally free of any insect parts. The resulting
liquid is called cochineal, a term also used to refer to the insect
and products prepared from
the extract. It is important that buyers understand the context in
which the term "cochineal" is being used because language
difficulties with primary extractor
can cause confusion.
Cochineal (the primary extract) is a purplish-red liquid, water
soluble and susceptible to microbial degradation if not handled with
care. For this reason, it is
often subsequently tray dried, or spray-dried. Cochineal is therefore
available as a liquid (variable amount of carminic acid below 5%),
crystal form (usually
95-99% carminic acid) and powdered form (about 50% carminic acid).
Cochineal is pH sensitive, as it is orange-yellow below pH 4, wine
red from pH 4 to
6.5, and purple-red above pH 6.5. Cochineal extract has found
application primarily in the beverage industry. Its solubility in
aqueous acidic systems and
absence of aluminum content favor broader application.
Carmine is made by precipitating carminic acid onto an alumina
hydrate substrate, using aluminum or calcium cations. This
precipitate is a "lake" and is
traditionally dried to contain about 50 to 53% carminic acid. Carmine
is insoluble in water and oil. It is stable if pH is held above 6. It
is soluble in alkaline
solution, where it is a bright burgundy/violet color. Liquid carmine
is usually offered as a 3 to 7.5% carminic acid content in an aqueous
with ammonium or potassium hydroxide. Great care should be take when
working with carmine solution prepared with a hydroxide. This is a
and workers are advised to avoid splashing and to always wear safety
glasses. Request a MSDS from the supplier relative to the alkali used
colorant's preparation. Carmine will precipitate out of solution at
low pH. It is stable to light, heat, oxidation, storage time and is
the color of choice in harsh
Carmine's only significant technical limitation is that it will
precipitate in low pH solutions. A Peruvian company has obtained a
U.S. Patent on an acid-proof
carmine product and ColorMaker can source this colorant . In powdered
form, Carmine has been used for cosmetics, pharmaceutical coatings,
surimi, fillings, cake icings, and hard candy. In the liquid form, it
has found application in coloring bakery products, icings, yogurt,
candy, ice cream, gelatin
desserts, various milk-based and alcoholic beverages, fruit syrups,
pet foods, fish cakes, jams/preserves, meat products, marmalades,
hair and skin care
products, lip sticks, face powders, rouges, and blushes. This
colorant cannot be Kosher certified.
Center for Integrated Ag Systems, UW-Madison
UW voice mail: 608-262-8018
Home office: 415-504-6474 (504-MISH)
Home office fax: Same as above, phone first for enabling
If you knew what life was worth, you would look for yours
on earth. And now you see the light--you stand up for your
rights. --Bob Marley, Peter Tosh
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