Ocean Spray Contains Dye Made From Insect Shells

Did you know that the dye used to color Ocean Spray is derived from bug shells? Ocean Spray contains cochineal extract, made from, natch, the shells of the cochineal insect.

Other products containing cochineal extract include: Dole Diced Peaches In Strawberry Gel Fruit Bowl, Sobe Lizard Fuel , Tropicana Orange Strawberry Juice with Calcium, and Robitussin Honey Calmers Natural Throat Drops.

Don’t worry, though, humans have been using the bug dye since Aztec and Mayan times, who used it for rugs and such. That’s right, from the people who brought you ritualistic virgin sacrifice, an exciting new taste sensation!

However, some say the cochineal’s natural dye is healthier than one made in a lab. Still, vegetarians or people with certain allergies will want to avoid products containing cochineal extract. — BEN POPKEN

(Thanks to NeroDiavolo!)


Edit Your Comment

  1. LowerHouseMember says:

    OH NOES!

  2. LAGirl says:

    but i drink Ocean Spray juices all the time….EEEEEEWWWWWWWWWW!!

  3. Charybdis says:

    And seaweed is in your ice cream. Not exactly hidden information, but I guess many people never read books or even watch TV much. Or maybe I just watch the right shows. ;-)

  4. Recury says:

    Certain allergies? Like what?

  5. animeredith says:

    I thank you for this post. I will thoroughly enjoy grossing out friends and family with this.

  6. FutureRoadie says:

    for your info it is the most common ingredient used for red dye, known as Carmine.

  7. Broominator says:

    Am I the only one who thinks this is kind of cool? They are just re-using nature’s waste instead of creating something in the lab that will probably end up wasting tons of materials and energy in the process.

  8. LAGirl says:

    i just looked this up, and the Ocean Spray Cranberry Juice blends i.e. cran-apple, cran-tangerine, etc. don’t have the bug dye. just lots of yummy high fructose corn syrup! whew!

  9. SaveMeJeebus says:

    Any vegan should know this. If they don’t, let them know so they can purge themselves. Oh and Jell-O is made from all the unedible parts of jointed mammals.

  10. Kahomono says:

    In addition, anyone who keeps kosher should know where this is used, as it will spoil an otherwise OK food item for that purpose.

  11. joeblevins says:

    Hasn’t this been the case for a very long time? Like 20+ years?

    Conserning Vegans, they stink and should get no consideration.

    But for honest Americans, I think we should know what is in our food. Read Fastfood Nation for lots of gory details.

  12. Mike_ says:

    There’s eel blood in your ice cream. Or, more accurately, manufacturers are using genetically modified baker’s yeast to produce an ice structuring protein derived from the blood of an arctic fish. Think about that next time you’re shoveling reduced fat ice cream into your face — you’re eating cloned eel blood.

  13. It’s the only non-synthetic red food dye, and I BELIEVE that more people have allergies to the synthetics (and have to seek out the bug dye) than to the bug dye. And the bug dye is hard to buy retail.

  14. joeblevins says:

    McDonald’s Shakes are thickened with seaweed. That skeeves a lot of people out.

  15. tcp100 says:

    Yes, and your vegan tasty broccoli is grown in cow dung; toothpaste is made from the skeletons of dead plankton.. Where exactly do all you guys think everything you eat comes from?

    Honey comes from insects too, and I don’t see the “eeew, gross!” about that. Cochneal has been used FOREVER, as has carrageenan (ice cream seaweed) and gelatin. I won’t get in on the vegan and “purge/cleanse” BS, since that’s political – but hello, mcfly?

    Thanks, Consumerist, for putting up a headline story that’s irrelevant by several millennia. That has to be some kind of blogosphere record.

    You guys are rockin hard lately. Oh, and where’s that promised major expose? Sheesh.

  16. Youthier says:

    @JustPeteHere: No, I agree. The idea of all the lab synthetic stuff I probably eat creeps me out a lot more.

  17. The Bigger Unit says:

    If vegetarians/vegans/whatever flip out over this, I believe they have a mental illness. Find something else to do with your life, seriously.

  18. bluemeep says:

    Well… At least the shells get washed.

  19. mermaidshoes says:

    am i the only one who thinks the middle picture (presumably something or other in a vat of dye) looks like raw meat soaking in blood? it’s grossing me out more than the bugs.

  20. ct03 says:

    Carmine nearly made me give up vegetarianism, but what really killed it was when I looked up whey and rennet on wikipedia. Meat I can live without, but cheese? Absolutely not.

    And I second tcp100: what happened to the expose?

  21. tcp100 says:

    @The Nature Boy: You’ve never met a fruititarian, have you..

    Don’t worry, people are always inventing new ways to draw attention to themselves and ways to inject pontificating diatribes into dinner conversation.

  22. lincolnparadox says:

    @joeblevins: What’s wrong with seaweed and eel gelatin and pig/cow gelatin and delicious delicious bug dye?

    Ok, I suppose if you’re allergic, or if you’ve decided to neglect the giant protein-digesting sack in your gullet in favor of refusing to eat fuzzy creatures that will end up in everyone else’s belly.

    Some red dye comes from grape/cherry/berry skins, as well. So, there are Vegan options.

  23. Pasketti says:

    Don’t forget, the Aztecs also gave us chocolate.

  24. tcp100 says:

    @Pasketti: Cool, maybe the Consumerist can do a story on the fact that chocolate does, indeed, exist.

  25. etinterrapax says:

    Meh, big deal. Better than chemicals, I say. I have no special sympathy for vegans/veggies on this issue. They wouldn’t have any for me if I followed some other kind of diet, and I’m mystified as to why they should claim a right to food parity when most people are omni. Moreover, the bugs outnumber us. They were here before we were, and they’ll be here long after. I don’t think we need to worry too much about their rights.

  26. azntg says:

    Eh, no surprise at all. Probably better we eat natural dyes than synthetic dyes any day. Besides there are still places where people eat raw insects regularly. If they can live with it, so can we.

    Though, I have to admit, it’s rather surprising what’s in our processed (and sometimes unprocessed too) foods

  27. timmus says:

    I’m really astounded that carmine is economically viable. Roaches, for example, may seem to be everywhere, but can you imagine the work and equipment that would be required to breed, contain, and harvest 100 pounds of roaches? Cochineal are much tinier, and it’s even more incredible to ponder how they manage to scale that up to mass production.

  28. superlayne says:

    If someone is so vegan they wouldn’t even consider drinking bug-made dye, I personally believe they should be forced to work the counter at a McDonald’s for three consecutive years.

  29. tcp100 says:

    @timmus: True, but from what I understand, cochneal dye is especially potent, and can be diluted quite a bit and still give a very rich color.

  30. Uriel says:


    Ocean Spray Ruby Red Grapefruit Juice

    INGREDIENTS: Water Filtered, Grapefruit Red, Corn Syrup High Fructose, Grapefruit Juice Pulp, Citric Acid, Pectin, Natural Flavor(s), Ascorbic Acid [ Vitamin C], COCHINEAL EXTRACT and, Carmine Color

    Cochineal Extract

    “Cochineal extract is a coloring extracted from the eggs of the cochineal beetle, which lives on cactus plants in Peru, the Canary Islands, and elsewhere. Carmine is a more purified coloring made from cochineal. In both cases, the actual substance that provides the color is carminic acid. These colorings, which are extremely stable, are used in some red, pink, or purple candy, yogurt, Campari, ice cream, beverages, and many other foods, as well as drugs and cosmetics. These colorings have caused allergic reactions that range from hives to life-threatening anaphylactic shock. It is not known how many people suffer from this allergy. The Food and Drug Administration should ban cochineal extract and carmine or, at the very least, require that they be identified clearly on food labels so that people could avoid them. Natural or synthetic substitutes are available. A label statement should also disclose that, Carmine is extracted from dried insects so that vegetarians and others who want to avoid animal products could do so.

    Ref: Center for science in the public intrest

    The distilled or evaporated oils of foods or plants (such as nuts, seeds, fruits, vegetables, herbs, spices, bark, buds, roots, leaves, meat, poultry, seafood, fish, dairy foods, or eggs) that are dissolved in an alcohol base or allowed to dry to be used as a flavoring. Food extracts as they are often labeled, are used to add a concentrated flavor to many food dishes, especially baked goods and desserts, without adding additional volume. Available in solid (cubes, granules or powdered), liquid or jelled form, extracts may be labeled as pure, natural or artificial. Pure and natural extracts are governed by laws in many countries that require compliance with procedures that take the extract ingredients directly from the named flavor, such as extracting oils directly from the vanilla bean to make pure or natural vanilla extract. Artificial extracts are flavors that do not necessarily use any ingredients directly from a source named for the extract but instead used combinations of ingredients to arrive at a flavor representative of the named food extract, such as artificial lemon extract. Some of the most widely used extracts include vanilla, almond, anise, maple, peppermint, and numerous solid or jelled extracts such as beef and chicken bouillon or meat demi-glaces. As an example of how the pure and natural extract is made, vanilla extract is created by soaking vanilla beans in water and an alcohol-based solution where it ages for several months, during which time the vanilla flavor is extracted from the bean. Anise extract, a sweet licorice tasting flavoring, is produced by dissolving the oil of anise seeds into alcohol.

    Grape extract is produced to assist with the wine making process. Compounds from the skin of grapes are extracted and added to the wine in order to impart tannin, color, and body into a wine. The characteristics of the wine can be changed dramatically by the amount of time the wine is in contact with the skins. If the grapes are in contact for too long, the resulting wine may be too potent, or what is sometimes called “over-extracted”.

    Juices of fruits and vegetables are often extracted as juice extracts to be used similar to other food extracts, as a flavoring when preparing foods. A common utensil for the purpose of extracting lemon juice is available to assist with home recipes requiring a lemon flavoring.”

    – As stated in food facts.com

  31. Uriel says:


  32. SkyeBlue says:

    If you really want to be shocked go onto the fast food websites and look up the nutrition information for their foods and check out the ACTUAL amount of fat, sugar and sodium that is in a standard combo meal at one of these places! One night when I had WAY TOO MUCH time on my hands I wrote down the number of grams of each that was in one of my favorite combo meals and went to a measuring conversion conversion site (grams to teaspoons). When you get that moment of clarity that the last meal you ordered had 13 teaspoons of fat, 15 teaspoons of sugar and a couple of teaspoons of salt in it (picture yourself in your kitchen trying to just flat out EAT that amount of oil, salt and sugar!) it isn’t hard to figure out why we have such an obestiy problem here in the US.

  33. ExecutorElassus says:

    @SaveMeJeebus: what self-respecting vegan would drink processed juice? i know if i see ingredients that aren’t from the fruits i’m supposed to be drinking, i won’t touch it.

    i think it’s the omnis who pay far too little attention to the ingredients in their food, which is backwards.

  34. homerjay says:

    I find it funny that people will get skeeved over this and still eat stuff like steamed clams. You may as well eat your household water filter.

    I’ve got nothing against steamed clams. I’d just never put one to my mouth. I find everything about them yucky.

  35. Starfury says:

    Gives new meaning to “bug juice” when camping.

  36. tcp100 says:

    @SkyeBlue: Ah.. The old “that’s why we’re all fat” oversimplification. Take a look at the amount of butter and milkfat in a French diet sometime, and tell me that there’s not a whole lot more to the so called “obesity epidemic” than McDonalds.

    Personally, I eat at McDonalds about once a year, and really don’t know many other people who frequent the golden arches enough to really make it affect their health.

  37. kerry says:

    @SaveMeJeebus: That’s not true anymore. Most gelatin sold nowadays is lab-derived, not animal-derived.

  38. Uriel says:

    it also seems to have the possibility to cause allergic reaction ranging from hives to death. Now, an allergic reaction is quite common with some foods, but how often do you expect the food dye’s ingredients to cause such complications? Some are urging the FDA to ban the use of this extract.

  39. Chicago7 says:

    “You’re drinking cranberry juice? Whattya, having your period?”

  40. valkin says:

    As a vegetarian, I choose not to eat products using carmine or cochineal extract. It’s made from dead animals.

    Why there is so much vitriol here for vegetarians and vegans, I have no idea.

  41. Crazytree says:

    how many insect parts end up in picked vegetables? a lot?

    how many living organism are consumed every time you drink a glass of water? billions.

    also, you probably eat a couple of bugs every year that crawl into your mouth when you sleep.


  42. kerry says:

    @Crazytree: And how many bugs do you kill driving your car to work? Or just walking down the sidewalk? I realize you’re not eating those (‘cept for the ones that get stuck in your teeth), but death is death, right?
    Everybody has to draw their own lines for what they do and don’t eat, but it’s a pretty slippery slope from bugs to fungus and yeast, to plants, to bacteria. Then what will you eat?

  43. valkin says:

    @Crazytree: It’s about what one chooses and what one feels is appropriate in this day and age for a human to eat.

    I understand that a certain amount of insects get killed in harvesting produce. That’s quite different from this case where billions and billions of beetles are intentionally raised and killed for the coloring they can provide extra coloring to cranberry juice. I don’t want any part of that.

    Bugs can crawl into my mouth while I’m sleeping all they want (despite that being gross). It’s what I consciously choose to do to other life forms that matters to me.

  44. Uriel says:

    @valkin: “Bugs can crawl into my mouth while I’m sleeping all they want”


  45. amazon says:

    Thank gods I always put a lot of vodka in my cranberry juice. You know, to kill the bug ickies.

  46. Crazytree says:

    @kerry: “Then what will you eat?”

    Animals… tasty, delicious animals. :)

  47. whereismyrobot says:

    I am not even going to get into some debate about vegetarianism (even though I am a vegetarian). I think that EVERYONE should have the right to know what is in the food and make informed choices about whether or not they want to eat them, veg*n or not. That is what I interpret to be the purpose of this blog.

    That said, I think about a year ago there was a push to make Ocean Spray (and certain yogurt brands) label this correctly.

  48. hoo_foot says:

    Did you know honey also comes from bugs? EVERYBODY PANIC

  49. valkin says:

    @nerodiavolo: the worms crawl in the worms crawl out! :-P

    (btw, the “reply to this” doesn’t appear on firefox on a mac?)

  50. sharonlives says:

    While I’m not wildly religious, I do like to keep Kosher to a degree. When I first heard about the bug juice last year, I was totally shocked. Bugs are VERY un-Kosher. Never before would I have thought to check my store bought food for bugs. I mean, come on! Isn’t that why we buy these things from the store and don’t grow them ourselves????

    Anyway, since then I try to look for Kosher symbols on the stuff I buy. If it’s not marked, then I’m assuming there are bugs (or something worse) inside!

    Great site by the way! First time posting…

  51. Uriel says:

    @valkin: oh yeah, talk dirty to me baby.

    My bro’s a vegetarian, his girlfriend is a vegan. Now, being a vegetarian is alright, nothing too hard, but vegans(there’s a difference, for those who didn’t know) are pretty hardcore. I don’t think I could deal without dairy, though the silk(soy milk) isn’t bad.

  52. Major-General says:

    And so? Please, its not like its FD&C Red No. 2.

  53. kendra.e says:

    Why does cranberry juice need red dye anyhow? Aren’t cranberries red?

  54. kendra.e says:

    aren’t ruby red grapefuits red too? they would still be light pink even with all that corn syrup. What’s with the dye?

  55. lestat730 says:

    It might sound gross, but it’s not to bad when you think about it. I forget the exact number but they say a person will swallow ___ many bugs in their lifetime without even knowing it. I wish I could recall the number but I can tell you that it was quite large. Some things are best kept away from our thoughts, enjoy your ocean spray! It tastes just as good as it did before you read this article.

  56. Slytherin says:

    Ewww!!! What I don’t know won’t hurt me. But now thanks to Consumerist, I’m hurt. :(

  57. CoffeeAddict says:

    Using bugs in food is kewl, and I think it’s awesome that we as humans have atleast continued something for a long period of time. It does not matter what culture started it but it’s great we have found great ways of using nature in our foods and clothing etc. It shows that God made the world and all things in it to improve our lives and to be useful in many ways.

  58. Firstborn Dragon says:

    Really, lay off the vegetarians/vegans.

    I’m vegetarian, have been for over oh…ten years. Even though my parents AND brother eat meat, I don’t say a word. Their choice as it’s my choice not to. I see nothing wrong with our choice.

    But I say that to ANYONE who decides to try and force their lifestyle onto me for WHATEVER reason (Or anyone else for that matter) get a damn life. You want to eat dead cow? Fine. Just don’t get on my case for it.

    Really some people here are just as pathetic as the vegetarians who try to guilt trip you into going vegetarian/vegan.

    If I want to be vegetarian that is MY choice. There is no need for me to listen to anyone who dosen’t like how I live MY life.

  59. dantsea says:

    @kendra.e: Yes, the cranberry or pink grapefruit would have a red or pink color. However, that color would vary based on individual crops, even when blended together. Having bottles of the same juice in different shades of red or pink isn’t appealing to most consumers, so the dye gives the product a consistent appearance.

    Another possibility is that other additives affect the natural coloring of the juice and the dye covers that up.

  60. chutch says:

    Personally, I’m going to file this under the category of “Did you know …” conversation. For instance, I’ve always heard the best way to become a vegetarian was to work for a fast food restaurant. Thankfully, the only one I’ve worked in has always maintained a better than normal work area.

    Oh, and the bugs crawling in the mouth thing is creepy. Not that the bugs themselves are something I’ll worry about eating. I just don’t like the thought. I’ve never woke up beside a bug I found attractive enough to test my palate on.

  61. ldt says:

    This doesn’t disturb or gross me out in the least. Then again, I’m one of the few people who positively craved a Big Mac after watching the oh-so-sanctimonious Super Size Me.

  62. Buckler says:


    “I find it funny that people will get skeeved over this and still eat stuff like steamed clams. You may as well eat your household water filter.

    I’ve got nothing against steamed clams. I’d just never put one to my mouth. I find everything about them yucky.”

    I love fried clams, but I made my mother completely stop eating the oysters she loved when I explained the concept of a “filter feeder” to her. Nasty indeed, if you think about it, but they can be easily cleaned.

    Cochineal doesn’t bother me…neither does carageenan (the seaweed extract). I’m sure I’ve eaten much worse stuff that was born in a laboratory somewhere.

  63. Laner says:

    Campari also uses the same “bug shell” dye for their red coloring…which by the way is great with grapefruit juice!

  64. Gopher bond says:

    @Firstborn Dragon: Your lifestyle choices are bad and you should feel bad.

  65. Wasabe says:

    Something seems very appropraite about a drink called Lizard Fuel containing bugs.

  66. @ct03: Most cheese in the US is made with artificial rennet grown by bacterial colonies, so as long as you stick with mass-produced cheeses rather than artisinal, you’re okay.

    PS — what’s gross about whey? I don’t get it.

  67. dvizzl says:

    If you’d really like an eye opening experience take a look at the website for the FDA’s Food Defect Action Levels, i.e. “Levels of natural or unavoidable defects in foods
    that present no health hazards for humans”

    You’ll find out you’ve been eating all sorts of lovely bug parts, mildew, “rodent filth” etc. that you had no idea about.

    For example: BROCCOLI, FROZEN Insects and mites
    (AOAC 945.82) Average of 60 or more aphids and/or thrips and/or mites per 100 grams

    or how about

    (AOAC 955.46) Average of 30 or more fly eggs per 100 grams
    15 or more fly eggs and 1 or more maggots per 100 grams
    2 or more maggots per 100 grams in a minimum of 12 subsamples

    But don’t worry everybody, the significance is only “Aesthetic”. All that stuff you’ve been eating so far hasn’t hurt you, so why worry about it? ;)

  68. dantsea says:

    @dvizzl: I see such lists quoted often, they’re great for the “yuck!” factor.

    The list outlines what is acceptable some of the time because despite best efforts, bug parts will happen. But I guarantee that if a producer is hitting those limits on a consistent basis, they’re going to find the FDA and the local inspection authority paying a visit.

  69. mathew says:

    @timmus: Here in Texas, cochineal-infected cactus is really easy to find. You can scrape a white lump off and rub it between your fingers and you get red dye on your hand. The Wikipedia article on cochineal goes into the details of how they scale that up to farm size.

    Personally, I think it’s grosser that many perfumes and lipsticks contain musk scraped from weasel asses. (Specifically, civet cats.)

  70. godai says:

    There’s an old book a teacher once read us exceprts from called “Flies in the peanut butter”

    was nothing but fact like those.

  71. MrEvil says:

    Seriously, would you buy that bottle of cranberry juice if it wasn’t that perfect red color? (That second photo looks like yarn in a dye vat) I grew up on a farm, so I’m used to things not being 100% perfect but still edible, but the other 90% of America that isn’t farming isn’t. The quality demands of modern consumers is something that mother nature cannot supply on a regular basis. Heck, I reckon there’s something in the big chemical names of your OJ that enhance the color.

    Case in point, my dad took out a contract to grow a few acres of pinto beans on our farm. Unfortunately we had an overabundance of rain that year which discolored the beans. The beans were PERFECTLY safe to eat and apart from color tasted like pinto beans. However, because of the discoloration they could not be sold for human consumption.

    Moral of the story? People are absolutely stupid.