Here’s one food safety campaign that is sure to get a lot of followers.

Citizens for Health is asking for signatures to a petition, started by Center for Science in the Public Interest, to be presented to food and beverage companies. It asks them to stop using carmine, a red food dye that comes from beetles. It is commonly used in processed food such as yogurt and Tropicana juices. It is also known as cochineal extract or Natural Red No. 4.

For a few people the red color can lead to anaphylactic shock or hives, not to mention the obvious yuck factor. This is a nightmare for food producers. It is much easier to keep quiet about the actual source of the ruby red coloring, often labeled only as “color added.” There are alternatives of course. A red beet is very red and tends to stain and there are plant-based alternatives.

Working with the Center for Science in the Public Interest, the Citizens group is starting to compile a petition asking for more transparency. The proposed label change would require letting consumers know if their red-colored food comes from a bug-based ingredient or not.

Courtesy of Frank Vincentz.

A cluster of cochineal bugs. Imagine these little guys all ground up in your food.

So far the offending foods on the list include processed foods such as Hot Pockets Snackers, Betty Crocker Red Velvet Cake Mix, Rainbow Mentos, Nestle Nesquick strawberry chocolate cookie sandwich, and many more, reports the Palm Beach Post. Another project is a food list for vegans, Kosher and Halal consumers and people concerned about allergies. Many people react to Red Dye No. 4 as it’s found in thousands of common foods such as candies, cosmetics, fruit cocktail, cherries, fake crab, Alive vitamins women’s 50+ and ice cream.

The Center for Science in the Public Interest also warns parents during the Halloween season to inspect candies that may also contain the dye. Some children experience attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) which can be triggered by food additives, particularly dyes.

The FDA does not ban or even issue a warning about food coloring unlike the policy in the European Union.

Consumers are fooled that foods are good for them, natural and healthy such as yogurt, so they deserve to know what they are actually consuming. To do anything less is a form of bait and switch.

The Post reported a statement that came from Dannon, it says “Carmine is a safe, FDA approved, vivid red food color that many food makers use, including Dannon in some of our products, because it delivers the best color throughout the shelf life of the product.”

Great for them, not so great for you.