Introduction: How to Eat Fewer Insects

Picture of How to Eat Fewer Insects

Supposing that you're less than omnivorous, you may not always be in the mood to eat insects. You might be vegetarian, or your religion tells you that you shouldn't eat insects, or maybe you're just on a strict non-bug-eating diet. Here are a couple of simple hints to help you identify foods that contain bugs, illustrated with a few common supermarket candy items.

Step 1: Introduction

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This a moth. Don't eat it.

It seems that some people will eat just about anything. If you are of the highly omnivorous persuasion, congratulations. This story won't be any help at all, so please instead read the instructables about eating cute animals of some sort.

Let's be perfectly clear about this: this instructable is titled "How to eat fewer insects." It is meant to help you eat fewer (not zero) insects IF that is your choice. We do not make any judgements or claims about whether, when, or how many insects you should eat. Yes, lots of people like to eat insects, and lots of people don't like to eat insects. However, please keep in mind that it is not the topic under discussion here

If you're still interested, let's look at a box of candy in the next step.

Step 2: The Big Secret: Look at the Ingredients.

Picture of The Big Secret: Look at the Ingredients.

Just about every kid raised in the US in the last thirty years has eaten these. And yet, just look at what's in the list of ingredients: Carmine. Carmine is a pigment produced by cochineal insects, which are ground up and purified to produce the pigment. A less purified form of the pigment, called cochineal extract, is also sometimes found in foods.

Carmine, also called carminic acid, is a powerful red pigment that is found in a wide assortment of places where crushed insects (presumably) do not belong: Yoplait strawberry yogurt, Tropicana grapefruit juice, Campari, maraschino cherries, and it might make you question just why pink lemonade needs to be pink.

Because carmine is a "natural" (not synthetic) additive, government regulations on its labeling are lax, which is quite surprising since some people may suffer severe anaphylactic shock upon eating these or other insects. Not all products containing carmine label it at all, some merely say "added color," "natural color" or (also surprisingly) "artificial color."

Step 3: Another Lovely Euphemism

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Confectioner's glaze, food glaze, resinous glaze, and pharmaceutical glaze are pretty names for shellac, the excretion of a certain type of beetle. While perhaps that's not so very different from honey, the difference is that shellac is harvested beetles-and-all. (Yum!)

(Confusing the issue is that a corn protein, zein, may also be labeled as "Confectioner's glaze." While I've seen a great many companies that make and use shellac-based confectioner's glaze, I have yet to see any that use a zein base. If you know of any examples of zein-based confectioner's glaze, please leave it as a comment!)

Step 4: The Best of Both Worlds

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I have fond memories of eating Good & Plenty as a kid; however, those were somewhat colored (pink?) by recently noticing what's on the label: carmine and shellac, this time disguised as "RESINOUS GLAZE."

Here's what really gets me: That little "kosher" indicator below the ingredient list. According to the Wikipedia article on kosher diets, "The consumption of insects involves five violations of Torah law, so according to Jewish Law it is a greater sin than the consumption of pork."

Really now. It doesn't take scholar on Jewish Law to determine that eating insects is worse than eating pork. Exactly what are these Hershey folks trying to pull here? (And as long as we're kicking The Hershey Company while they're down, what's with that grainy texture in Special Dark?)

Step 5: What's in Jelly Beans?

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Jelly Bean is my cat. She eats the bugs that she sometimes catches. Likewise, the jelly beans pictured here contain insects. Look at the last line of the list of ingredients: Confectioner's glaze. The list of ingredients is extremely long, but cut the guys some slack; that's a comprehensive list for the ingredients of a lot of different flavors of beans.

Interestingly, these are also labeled kosher. Even more interesting, they are certified by the very same folks that certified the Good & Plenty. (I see a pattern here. Look for certified kosher bacon next year!)

Step 6: What's in Other Confections?

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The degree to which ingredients like carmine and confectioner's glaze are integrated into things that we eat is quite surprising. Once you know what to look for, you'll start noticing them all the time.

Hopefully, you're now armed just a little bit better to protect yourself against unwittingly eating insects.

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holymoses (author)2015-07-21

Forget Jews!

Eat Insects, better than great beings like pigs!

The question left is just: "Is it necessary to eat this hyperglycemic stuff?!

KronoNaut (author)2015-02-05

Thanks for the informative article. While I don't mind eating insects I will share this with friends who either due to dietary concerns, or just the "ick" factor refuse to eat them.

blogpoems (author)2014-10-19

Sooner or later the government will feed us insects for dinner. Then they will tell us it was for our own good and to save the planet.

Deal with it.

Yokel (author)2014-07-04

I know it's years after the first posting but just wanted to clear something up for folks.

Shellac as an ingredient - confectioners/ food/ resinous glaze doesn't contain bugs. Shellac is the secretion from the lac female bug scraped from trees. It's true that UNrefined shellac contains up to 25% insect material, but the shellac used in food is refined shellac.

Cochineal on the other hand IS processed insects.

(As for Kosher insects there are only 4; 2 types of locust, grasshoppers and some other ground hopping thing, don't remember which. Has something to do with how their legs are set up. Don't think you'll find them much in processed food though - yet).

lipstic (author)2013-09-24

"...the Torah only prohibits insects which are visible to the naked eye...."

Insects are not bad for you, but in biblical times it was too hard to tell the difference much less remember the long list of good and bad insects so the rabbis interpreted them all to be wrong. It was easier and besides a chicken or cow is much more filling than figuring out which tiny insect is ok to eat.

ccddkkuu (author)2007-06-16

Insects figure intentionally into human diets around the world. Today the word mealworm is an unsuccessful search at Instructables; but someday there could easily be a tutorial on raising your own mealworms and sharing them among your big fish, your reptile, and your cookie recipe.

Resist eating oh just any insect though: Insects and plants invented chemical warfare. (What else have they got, after all.) Some of their chemicals can be medicine at the right time and dosage, but many are plain nasty--even lethal.

Thank you, Oskay, for helping us to know more of the specifics!

thermoelectric (author)ccddkkuu2008-07-05

I'm gonna make a tutorial on how to breed/raise mealworms

bacaboi (author)2008-03-26

In sugar babies WHITE MINERAL OIL is typically used for the glossy effect it produces, and to prevent the candy pieces from adhering to each other. Some studies suggest that prolonged use might be unhealthy because of low accumulation levels in organs. resinous glaze is beetle juice, but it can be compared to honey from a bee. up. :)

Cantos (author)2007-09-19

This whole article is really very interesting. Thanks. Unfortunately we cannot avoid eating insects no matter what we do. So if that upsets you, do not read this. Isect parts allowed in food

oskay (author)Cantos2007-09-19

Not only is that already linked in the comments, but it's clear that you didn't even read the title of this instructable: this is about how to eat fewer insects.

Cantos (author)oskay2007-09-19

Sorry, I still can't find that link. There are a lot of comments, most of them trash so I only gave them a cursory look. Hey, I gave you credit for being interesting. My point in adding the link (to be clear, since you did not pick up on it) was that it is inane to try to avoid processed, regulated (and safe) food sources when you can't even avoid the accidental and unregulated ones. That's in the same league as the germaphobic idiots who won't flush toilets with their hands. You won't live any longer, just in fear of everything you put in your mouth. Encouraging that sort of paranoia won't justify your own. C'mon, anaphylactic shock from a Sugar Baby!? Lighten up. I'll take bugs over processed sugar any day.

oskay (author)Cantos2007-09-20

Since you didn't read the article, I'll repeat part of step one for you here: "Let's be perfectly clear about this: this instructable is titled "How to eat fewer insects." It is meant to help you eat fewer (not zero) insects IF that is your choice."

Please read that a few more times until it sinks in.

So your comment, helpfully informing me that "we cannot avoid eating insects " is kind of redundant. You put down a comment to tell me that I'm wrong for writing this article, and the best argument that you can come up with is something that I already mentioned in the article? Very helpful indeed.

How about this: why don't you try writing some instructables so that everyone else can leave condescending, off-topic, offensive, and redundant comments on yours. You'll find that most of your commenters haven't read the other comments to know that what they had to say has already been said-- and answered. You'll find that maybe a quarter of them have a question that you already answered in the article-- indicating that they hadn't read it all the way-- and you'll find the very few, very special commenters who haven't even read the title. You'll have lots of fun-- you should try it.

Anaphylactic shock from carmine is a genuine concern to a certain set of allergic people. Since you think that I should lighten up about it, it's clear that you're not one of the people that could end up in the hospital from eating a popsicle containing carmine-- and good for you. But that's no reason to wish that fate on others.

sasgty9 (author)2007-08-13

hmm eating bugs is probably more healthy and environmentally better then purchasing and eating the candy

ichipoodle (author)2007-07-22

Actually pfp21, from what i have heard, gelatin is made from powdered cow bones and cow toenails. Correct me if i'm wrong, but i think that's what makes it wobbly...........jello anyone?

smoke (author)ichipoodle2007-08-11

ichipoodle is correct, i work in a beef processing facility and we do save particular bones for the production of gelatin, also used for gel tab asprin coating.

oskay (author)ichipoodle2007-07-23

According to wikipedia's entry on gelatin, modern production is primarily from "mainly pork skins, pork and cattle bones, or split cattle hides," but that horns and toenails are not commonly used. I don't imagine that most mainstream carnivores find this shocking or disturbing, but I personally think that is a bit strange that some of our desserts consist essentially of sweetened meat.

pyro13 (author)oskay2007-08-09

wow dude... thumbs up on the instruc mate... scary thought... im gunna sue the jelly belly company and gain a little bit o $$ =D jk...but still. i would be very disturbed if eating bugs bothered me at all.

derev (author)oskay2007-07-26

Wikipedia entries are to be taken with a grain of salt. Since they can be edited by anyone, they are not a definitive source to be accepted without caveat.

oskay (author)derev2007-07-26

Yes, we know about wikipedia. However, comments that add nothing to the conversation except nonspecific doubts should also be taken with a grain of salt. If you actually have a better reference on the subject, we're all listening.

meeee (author)2007-08-07

for the record that symbol says kosher but its not actually a recognized hechsher (it means a symbol that shows something is kosher). many companies will put things on their products that make them look kosher when in reality they are not. if you are still wondering about kashrut a good referance is

oskay (author)meeee2007-08-07

Hey Thanks, meeee!
It's a great resource, and I didn't know that such a thing existed-- I though that we were just on our own to figure out which agencies were reliable. Looking at that list does inject a little bit of sanity into these things!

oskay (author)2007-02-12

Hey, you don't need to convince me-- Just look at the title of this page: it's "how to eat fewer insects."

derev (author)oskay2007-07-26

Another aspect to eating fewer bugs is that the FDA allows a certain amount of contamination of food products by insects (specifically bulk grains, both whole and ground). I have not researched the regs, ordanic foods may have a highher or lower limit of such contamination. As a person with food allergies, this instructable is very enlightening. A big TAN-Q

pharoah (author)oskay2007-04-15

I have to agree with oskay. This instructable is simply here to point out common foods that have insects in them. He doesn't say that it is wrong for everybody to eat insects, or that they aren't kosher, or that other foods don't have insects in them too. Although I myself am not planning to give up Good N Plenties any time soon, I find this very interesting and informative.

CaffeineHouse (author)2007-07-19

thanks for revealing what is in the food we eat every day! personally, i don't really mind ingesting a few bugs (there are a lot worse things you could be eating!) but it is still nice to know what is in your food. great instructable!

Dragonpike (author)2007-06-25

OMG!!!I just used those decors yesterday!I just went and checked and they are the same brand!Thanks for the heads up.

xxxafterglow (author)Dragonpike2007-07-16

Before jumping to conclusions... this instructable doesn't designate the confectioner's glaze in the final picture to be shellac or zein. I can understand erring on the safe side of not consuming it. Shellac is also used as a pharmaceutical coating and on apples. I agree - thanks for the heads up. I don't have a problem with eating animals and insects but it's good to know where your food comes from.

oskay (author)xxxafterglow2007-07-16

That is a good point. In defense of what is written above, I have never seen a verified instance of zein-based confectioner's glaze being used as an ingredient in candy, but several of shellac. So, my impression is that shellac is the commonly used one. If anyone can produce counterexamples, I would like to see them.

oskay (author)2007-07-11

A little bit of consideration would show you that there are genuinely people out there who would prefer to avoid eating animals and animal products. Reducing their beliefs to "who cares" is not kind, productive or constructive. The title is "how to eat fewer insects." If *you* want to write an instructable discussing whether or not one *should* eat insects, please do so. However, this is not the place for that debate.

oskay (author)2007-07-04

That's really interesting-- most people are omnivores; do you suffer any health side effects from being a (as you put it) "carnavore"?

pppoootttzzz (author)2007-06-25

i don't mind eating this stuff

J_SCAP (author)2007-06-25

oooooooooo this reminds me of a george carlin skit where he talks about the people in the air force who say that theyl eat any thing oh well here is the skit "geez im hungry what is that what ever give it to me ill eat it" "its rats asshole don" "whatever it needs ketchup"

pyr0man1ac (author)2007-06-22

Haha i have known some foods contain bugs, and im fine with it! I dont think bugs really have feelings, and afterall, God made animals ( aand probably bugs) for us to eat! thanks for informig people though, so they can choose whether to eat bugs or not

goukanomegami (author)2007-06-18

It contains peanuts because of the peanut butter flavoured jelly bean, methinks. However, by the time it actually gets into to product, it may be such a small amount that only severely allergic people might have a reaction to it. Who knows, either way, they're still stupid. All for food labeling reform in the U.S. say 'Aye!'

maeve (author)2007-06-09

I'm a vegitarian. I've eaten those things! THATS RELLY DISGUSTING. I'm going to tell all my freinds in school. Thanks soooooo much for telling me what carmine is. Thats cruelty to insects! And I thought blue cheese was disgusting! eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeewwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww!

gamer (author)2007-05-25

do tic tacs contain bugs, cause i just ate like 3 packs. anyway...i think it is kinda nasty that they put bugs in food, ewww

oskay (author)gamer2007-05-26

As far as I can tell, there are no (intentionally added) bugs in tic tacs.

gamer (author)oskay2007-05-26

thank you, i was kinda worried that they did, cause they are so damn good. ever since i looked at this instructables, i watched what i was watching, lol

pfp21 (author)2007-05-17

WOW. who knew? this just adds to the list of things that strict veggies won't feel comfortable eating. anyone have an instructable on gelatin in products? that's not vegetarian either, is it.

Mace42 (author)2007-05-10

Although I am probably not going to stop eating any of those things, you have managed to inform me of some pretty interesting stuff, and for that, you get a plus. People should stop making rude comments. You aren't forcing them not to eat these things. You are just stating what is true. I personally think that all the people who have been disrespectful of this should be ashamed. >_>

H8uz0za1h (author)2007-05-08

I appreciate your effort to make people more aware of what they are eating:] Please note: Dye Red 40 is another clever way of disguising carmine (often listed beside carmine)! I work in a coffee shop and several of our flavor syrups that have a red pigment are colored by Red 40... so be wary of anything artificially colored red (artificial just implies that something did not occur "naturally", or they altered the natural appearance).

oskay (author)H8uz0za1h2007-05-08

Carmine is known by the codes Natural Red 4, C.I. 75470, and E120. I don't know of any instances of those designations being used in the US, but I have seen some of them on foods from Europe and (I believe) India.

Red No. 40 is an extremely common dye in foods. It is also known as Allura Red AC, Food Red 17, C.I. 16035, and E129. It's apparently a common misconception that it is a variety of carmine-- that misconception even gets a mention on the wikipedia page about Allura Red:

Since Red 40 is a synthetic dye (made from petroleum or coal tar), it is subject to FDA oversight, as opposed to carmine-based dyes, which are not. For more, see

makepiesnotsense (author)2007-05-08

this is a nice piece of information! it reminds me of the lecithin debacle. remember, when a couple of years ago, everybody got to know that most chocolates were emulsified through red blood cells from animals...and now every company uses soy emulsifiers for their chocolate products? too cool.

Luvmunky (author)2007-04-27

Thanks for the "secret info" and another reason to stay on the diet!

stranoster (author)2007-04-26

Awesome... IT'S A CONSPIRACY! Y2K!!!

amateurdancer (author)2007-04-25

yummy bugs are so delicious!!!!!

carpespasm (author)2007-03-11

don't most people swallow about a pound of bugs a year in their sleep anyway? or four spiders a year on average? "food" for thought.

your mom (author)carpespasm2007-03-30

do tell, like crawl in your mouth and like, just get lost?

oskay (author)carpespasm2007-03-11

If you have any suggestions that you'd like to contribute about how to eat fewer insects (in your sleep), they might be appropriate to add here.

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