Why Red 4 is your new worst enemy (HINT: it’s made of bugs!)

I recently found out some crazy, awful, horrible news and I need to share it with you guys to get this feeling of grossness off of my chest! (Lucky you, right?)

So, I was reading about vegan and non-vegan candies, and on the list of non-vegan candy were Nerds. I had no clue what was in Nerds that made them non-vegan, so I looked further into the situation and found that they are not vegan because they contain “Red 4”

Not knowing what Red 4 was or why it wasn’t vegan, I looked it up, and to my horror found out that Red 4 is basically squished up beetles!! I have never been a huge bug fan, and the idea of eating them grosses me out more than I can say. I don’t hate them, but I’m not exactly “vegan for the bugs.”

As someone who wants to devote her life to veganism, I have NO clue how I did not know about Red 4 before!

Carmine is defined as a red dye derived from the cochineal beetle,” which includes  “crushed shells, wings, and eggs of the Cochineal Beetle.” Yummy.

Not only is carmine in some foods, but it’s also widely used in lipsticks and other red-tinted cosmetics. This is another thing that I apparently was clueless on! Luckily for me, I tend to only buy cosmetics that are labeled vegan because I like supporting vegan companies, but this is a scary thing to find out if you’re someone who likes to just buy any old lipstick from CVS.

Here’s a picture of one of the big guys himself:


I may not be a bug fan, but I’m prettyyyyy sure these guys don’t want to be crushed up for the sake of your lipstick looking on point.

So why do companies use carmine? Apparently, carmine is used because it is cheaper than other red dyes, like beets and strawberries, (which happen to be better dyes than carmine!)

If you want to avoid wearing or eating beetle guts, def do your research to make sure that you don’t cross paths with this unnecessarily gross dye.

On that note, hope I didn’t ruin your weekend with all of this crushed up beetle talk!


6 thoughts on “Why Red 4 is your new worst enemy (HINT: it’s made of bugs!)

  1. Mel Archer says:

    Thanks for the post Meredith – it is amazing (and scary) finding out the ingredients in cosmetics! I just checked a red lipstick of mine – carmine is listed as an ingredient, ugh. I thought I was buying a good brand that doesn’t test on animals. Using crushed up beetle is just wrong.


    • Meredith Liguori says:

      Darn I’m sorry! It’s such a bummer to think you’re safe when you shop cruelty free (which you usually are!) and then to realize there’s an animal product in the cosmetic. Ah well at least we both know about carmine now, better sooner than later!


  2. Amber says:

    When I first heard about the truth of red 4 i thought someone was pulling my leg! I couldn’t believe we all regularly eat bugs! Now I avoid it of course. But it’s still weird to think about.


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