|Soylent Red is Bugs!|
|If you’re not familiar with the movie “Soylent Green” it’s about a future where the planet is overcrowded, resources are very thin and society is tightly controlled. Their food is even more highly processed than our food is today, partly in an attempt to extract every possible calorie to feed the masses. At the climax of the movie, the hero (Charlton Heston) discovers that the staple referred to as “Soylent Green” is made from reprocessed human bodies. He runs through the streets in horror shouting “Soylent Green is People!”In our case, Soylent Red is Bugs.Believe it or not, one of the oldest food colorants that’s still in common use today is derived from insects. Carminic acid, derived from the shells of a specific dried female insect (Dactylopius coccus costa) is the main pigment in carmine or cochineal extract. The insect lives on cacti native to Central and South America and has been used by the Aztecs for hundreds of years. The Spanish explorer Cortez discovered carmine in the early 1500’s and was impressed by the depth of color compared to those used in Europe at the time. It became one of South America’s most valuable exports. It’s a very labor intensive process to harvest the insects, taking a million to produce one pound of dye.
The color is extracted from the shells of the females near egg laying time, when they turn a bright red color. (For the squeamish, think of it as extracting the pink color from shrimp or lobster, which are closely related to insects) The insects are dried and the color is dissolved into a solvent. The extract is highly filtered and there are no residual insect parts in the final product.
Carmine isn’t used in great amounts because it’s much more expensive than Red Dye #40. In some applications it’s a better choice as a colorant. While Red40 has an orange-red hue, carmine is a deep magenta-red (closer to Red Dye #3) It’s a very stable colorant across a broad range of temperatures, light and shelf life.
Carmine has been used for cosmetics, pharmaceutical coatings, fillings, cake icings, and hard candy. In the liquid form, it has found application in coloring bakery products, yogurt, candy, ice cream, gelatin desserts, milk-based and alcoholic beverages, fruit syrups, pet foods, jams and preserves, meat products, hair and skin care products, lip sticks, face powders, rouges, and blushes.
If you keep Kosher, avoid products containing carmine.
If you keep Halal, avoid products containing carmine.