New FDA Labeling Rules for Beetle-Derived Food and Cosmetic Cochineal Extract and Carmine Coloring

In January 2009, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced that all foods and cosmetics containing cochineal extract or carmine must contain a “prominent and conspicuous” declaration of these ingredients by name at least once on the item label. Previously, these colorings derived from female cochineal beetles could be declared on a label under a generic “color added” label or something similar.

The ruling becomes compulsory in January 2011. Voluntary compliance by companies may begin immediately.

The colorings are currently used in a host of products - including ice cream, yogurt, fruit drinks, and candy - giving them a red or purple color.

The FDA based its decision on reports of severe allergic reactions, including anaphylaxis, to the coloring. The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) filed a petition in 1998 that contained reports of dozens of severe allergic reactions to the coloring and recommended that it be labeled.

The new ruling does not specify that manufacturers must indicate the insect source of the ingredient.

Fish and the ‘Pareve’ Designation

Kashrus Magazine is a periodical for the kosher consumer but can also be very helpful for vegetarians and the allergic. According to this publication, there is a prohibition against eating meat and fish together in the Jewish religion. However, in cases when Jewish law deems the fish as nullified (due to its being less than 1.66 percent of the finished product), some kosher-certifying agencies label Worcestershire sauce as ‘pareve’ (i.e., contains neither meat nor dairy, but could contain fish or egg), with no mention of the fish content. Other agencies require labeling all Worcestershire sauce as ‘fish,’ if any amount of anchovies is present. Therefore, just seeing the ‘pareve’ claim on a product still means that vegetarians will need to read the ingredient panel carefully.

Similarly, in the case of omega-3 fatty acids from fish oils, not all kosher agencies will label the foods as fish since they contain only a small amount of fish-based oil. Though Kashrus Magazine covers many non-vegetarian issues, they often have information like this that is helpful to vegetarians, as well as facts about kosher natural foods products. To subscribe, call (718) 336-8544 or visit