FDA and Labeling Colors

June 1/St. Louis/St. Louis Post-Dispatch -- The pink in lemonade. The red in bonbons. The strawberry-colored hue in ice cream or yogurt. That color, in many cases, comes from the dried body of little critter called a cochineal bug, and its presence in food is obscured under the terms "artificial colors" or "color added."

However, earlier this year, the Food and Drug Administration imposed a rule saying that any food or cosmetic containing cochineal, or a related additive called carmine, be labeled as such.

The change comes after a decade-long campaign by the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a Washington-based watchdog group that pushed the FDA to require the labeling.

The group's efforts were spurred by a University of Michigan allergist who found that a patient suffered severe allergic reactions after ingesting the additives. After petitioning the FDA in 1998, the group received several dozen reports from consumers saying they had also experienced adverse reactions from ingesting the extracts.

The watchdog group says it celebrates the decision but believes the FDA should have banned the ingredients altogether.

It also notes the new labeling rule does not require companies to explicitly say their products contain additives from insects, information that might be valuable to people with dietary restrictions such as vegetarians, Jews and Muslims.

The rule takes effect in January 2011.  

From the June 8, 2009, Prepared Foods E-dition