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Here’s How Companies Turn Insects Into A Red Dye Used In Your Food and Cosmetics

That natural red coloring in your food and makeup might come from a place that may make you cringe: The ground-up bodies of countless tiny insects.

Thousands of miles from your local grocery store, farmers in south and central America make a living harvesting — and smashing — the bugs that go into the dye.

They’re called cochineal insects, and their crushed bodies produce a deep red ink that is used as a natural food coloring.

The squeamish customers out there (and those that are vegan) weren’t too happy when they found out that the dye was used in the Starbucks’ Strawberry Frappuccino. The outcry ended in Starbucks halting its use of the product in 2012.

However, the dye is still used in thousands of other food products — from Nerds candies to grapefruit juice. And most lovely red lipsticks.

You’ll never see the word “insects” listed on a product label, though. In 2009, the Food and Drug Administration introduced a new law that simply required food producers to list the ingredient as “carmine,” a catch-all term for an especially deep-red color of the same name.