Ethical issues using the Cochineal Insects as a coloring agent

we should make use of organic color that is extracted from fruits like beetroot, pomegranate, and red onion skins to produce red color which can easily replace insect dyes
Ethical issues using the Cochineal Insects as a coloring agent (CDC PHIL)
Ethical issues using the Cochineal Insects as a coloring agent (CDC PHIL)

Have you ever thought about how your makeup gets pigmented? What is the source of that pigments? Cochineal insect extract is used as a coloring agent in cosmetics as well as in the beverage, and food industry. It has been reported that more than 70,000 of these insects are killed to produce only 500grams of the dye, which is used in cosmetics and other products.

Cochineal insects are found mostly on the Cactus plant in Peru and the Canary Islands. In the extraction procedure of dye, the female cochineal insects (Dactylopius coccus) are boiled in water followed by filtration then precipitation, and again washing and drying of the final product. The color which is obtained from cochineal extract is called carmine.

Ethical issues using the Cochineal Insects as a coloring agent (CDC PHIL)
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Food and cosmetics which may contain carmine include Yogurt, Ice cream, dairy-based drinks, Candy, syrups, popsicles, chewing gum, and canned fruits including jams and cherries, talking about cosmetics it is used in lipstick, blush nail polish, etc.

It is also used in the pharmaceutical industry in products like pills, ointments, and syrups. Several studies show that cochineal extract can cause allergic reactions in some individuals including diarrhea, anaphylaxis, asthma, and hyperactivity in children. Hence FDA required the manufacturer to add a label on products if it contains natural dye products including cochineal extract.

Cochineal insects are found mostly on the Cactus plant in Peru and the Canary Islands. In the extraction procedure of dye, the female cochineal insects (Dactylopius coccus) are boiled in water followed by filtration then precipitation, and again washing and drying of the final product. (CDC)
Cochineal insects are found mostly on the Cactus plant in Peru and the Canary Islands. In the extraction procedure of dye, the female cochineal insects (Dactylopius coccus) are boiled in water followed by filtration then precipitation, and again washing and drying of the final product. (CDC)

As these industries utilize this live insect, there are controversies about it. The use of this carmine from cultivated cochineal has received criticism from vegans, vegetarians, and animal rights activists who showed concern for the life of the cochineal insects. One of the articles by Abraham Rowe and published in 2020, is Global Cochineal Production: Scale, Welfare Concerns, and Potential Interventions, which not only shows concern for the number of cochineal insects killed but how they are killed is also under question.

"Killing of insects for industrial production hampers biodiversity at large, hence the animal welfare societies raising issues to stop the use of cochineal insects to protect the biodiversity"

Yogesh Patil, Department of Medical Biotechnology, MGM School of Biomedical Sciences

As these industries utilize this live insect, there are controversies about it. The use of this carmine from cultivated cochineal has received criticism from vegans, vegetarians, and animal rights activists who showed concern for the life of the cochineal insects. (Unsplash)
As these industries utilize this live insect, there are controversies about it. The use of this carmine from cultivated cochineal has received criticism from vegans, vegetarians, and animal rights activists who showed concern for the life of the cochineal insects. (Unsplash)

"The use of dyes obtained from insect killing is considered as a non-vegetarian activity by the vegetarians hence the use of such dyes creating a concern for vegetarian society"

Yogesh Patil, Department of Medical Biotechnology, MGM School of Biomedical Sciences

In 2012 US coffee shop giant Starbucks got a complaint from one customer about the use of carmine in iced coffees, smoothies, and cakes. Hence, Starbucks has switched to using lycopene, a natural tomato-based extract.

Ethical issues using the Cochineal Insects as a coloring agent (CDC PHIL)
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But fortunately, nowadays people are following a vegan lifestyle encouraging more companies to produce animal-friendly products. So it has never been easier to prefer vegan items so that no animal is suffering.

we should make use of organic color that is extracted from fruits like beetroot, pomegranate, and red onion skins to produce red color which can easily replace insect dyes.

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