Warning over cochineal extract in Japan

By Ankush Chibber

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Food

Cochineal insects
Cochineal insects
Authorities in Japan have sounded an alert over cochineal extract, a commonly used food colorant, over fears it could trigger intense allergic reactions amongst consumers.

In a statement, Japan's Consumer Affairs Agency and the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare warned consumption of processed foods and drinks that contain cochineal could result in allergic reactions.

This comes after an allergy warning issued by the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare in early May where it ordered for cochineal and carmine to be listed on all cosmetic and quasi-drug products that contain them.

Cochineal, a crimson color additive, is made from cochineal bugs in South America and it has been used to dye foods for a long time now. Cochineal’s main chemical component is carminic acid.

Local media reports said that cochineal is most widely found in foods such as ham, sausages, fish cakes, and milk-based beverages amongst other food and beverage products as well as cosmetics. Authorities said that the cause of the allergic reaction from cochineal could be the protein in the extract.

Under Japanese food safety laws, the amount of cochineal proteins used in food items is limited to 2.2% or less, and as such, there is said to be a low risk of developing cochineal allergy from just eating products containing the colorant.

While FoodNavigator-Asia was unable to get authorities on the record over the issue by the time we went to press, officials at the two units told local media that they might consider establishing some kind of new rules regarding the colorant.

This latest issue concerning cohineal comes after in March, US coffee chain Starbucks came under fire after it was exposed for using cochineal extract in its strawberry frappuccinos, smoothies and pastries.  

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