The Jealous Crumpet

A sweet little blog

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Red is a bold color, which can symbolize passion, love, and wealth, as equally well as insanity, death, and rage. Often red is used to illustrate something malevolent or toxic.

Snow White is poisoned by a deep, red apple, when it could just as easily been a green Granny Smith.  In Alice in Wonderland, the Queen of Hearts madness is exemplified by her obsession with color red.  Somehow mauve or periwinkle wouldn’t have had the same impact.  Even in Star Wars the Dark Side sports angry red light sabers, as oppose the peaceful green and blue ones that the Force prefers.


As it turns out, just as red is toxic in fiction, it can be toxic in real-life as well.   But rather than a poison apple, potentially toxic red comes in the form of a common food dye known as Red 40.

Red 40/Allura Red/Food Red 17 is usually derived from from petroleum.  That’s right, dead dinosaurs, the same stuff we use to make gasoline for our cars.

According the Center for Science in the Public Interest, Red 40, which is found numerous foods throughout the US, has been linked to allergic reactions, hyper-activity in children and even cancer in lab research.  In fact, the European Union and British government have taken actions to ban most chemical food dyes from their food, but in the United States we consume the dye in everything from cookies to butter to cough medicine.


So what’s the culinary to do when faced with a recipe that requires an ENTIRE bottle of red food dye?  Sure you can opt for the natural plant based dyes, utilizing beets or tomatoes for coloring, but I have a more exotic suggestion: Carmine dye.

Carmine (Natural Red 4) is made from the female cochineal beetle which is indigenous to Mexico and South America.  Many of us, myself included, are squeamish at the prospect of eating insects.  And entomophagy (eating insects for food) is certainly is not a prominent part of western culture, but it other parts of the world insects are readily consumed and even enjoyed.  Below are 3 reasons to eat insects.


3 Reasons You Should Eat a Bug:

1. You’re already eating insects regularly and just don’t realize it.  Carmine, the above-mentioned dye, is actually an ingredient in a lot of the foods, including juice yogurt and candy.  The insect dye might be called carmine, carmine acid, natural red 4 or under FDA standards it may just be labeled as natural coloring. If this is upsetting to you then you will be very distraught to learn that the FDA also allows a certain number of “unavoidable defects in foods” which often comes in the form on insect body parts.

  •  Frozen broccoli allows an average of 60 or more insects per 100 grams
  • Chocolate allows an average of 60 or more insect fragments per 100 grams
  • Canned Mushrooms allow an average of over 20 or more maggots (yes, you read that right maggots) of any size per 100 grams

2. They are better for the environment than other meats.  Greenhouse gas effects are great concern for the environmentally conscientious.  Livestock is large contributor to the increased greenhouse gases, but ‘mini livestock’ (bugs) produce far less pollution and are still rich in protein.

3. Once you get past the idea that you are eating an insect, they are pretty tasty.  I ate a sour cream and onion-flavored cricket and honestly it tasted just like a potato chip, granted a cricket-shaped potato chip, but seriously it wasn’t bad.  Sure finding an antenna in my teeth later that day was a bit off-putting, but I’m sure I would get past that as some point.

The United Nations recommend insect food sources and potential solution to ending world hunger.  In order to embrace insects as a food supply, I garnished my Red Velvet cake with mealworms.  Yum!


Click for this AMAZING Red Velvet Cake Recipe by Lily Plauché.