Dactylopius Coccus Costa is an insect. There is a good chance you’ve worn it or even ate it. Dactylopius Coccus Costa is harvested from plants and processed to create red dye.
This insect is in the news because it has come to the fore that it resides in some red dye that we eat. It shouldn’t bother us, we eat a lot of insects whether we like it or not. We eat a lot of things whether we like it or not and frankly I’ll take an insect anytime over green peas.
This hullabaloo came out primarily from several blogs but I felt I had to go a scientific source to get truly accurate information.
Our source is the “Journal of Insect Science,” Volume 8, Article 20.
When you get through the “scientific-ese,” what is going on is essentially this:
The Dactylopius Coccus Costa is an insect found in Mexico and South America. It feeds on a host cactus (Opuntia ficus-indice if it matters to you) and as the female insect eats and mates she creates carminic acid that produces the crimson-colored dye “carmine.” This is used in red food coloring and in dye used for coloring clothes.
The insect is harvested individually from their host cactus which often dies from infestation. They are harvested when they are 90-days old. After that they are dried by either boiling or using the “sun-drying” method and then placed in bags and sold to individuals or on a larger scale to mass producers.
As a note, I have used Wikipedia as one source for this article. While most everyone finds it interesting, not all people find it an acceptable academic resource. I feel it is a fair representation of what I read in the Insect Journal and think it is much easier to understand.
I thought it was interesting to discover that the “Red Coats” that the British wore in the Revolutionary War were dyed with carmine. Also, carmine is one of a very few dyes safe to use in facial cosmetics that are water soluble.
I have to say that I noted there was an impending law that was to force restaurants to report to customers when this food coloring was in their fare. I could understand that if it was dangerous. However the law was championed by vegetarians who don’t want any animals including insects in their diets.
I have included a link for everyone; this includes vegetarians. It shows just a few foods that have insects in them. If you’ll note, these insects are there with the blessing of the United States Department of Agriculture.
I would suggest this is far from an exhaustive list.
The Dactylopius Coccus Costa was used in ancient history for these things. Perhaps we move to fast when we seek to run away from this type of heritage.