Red food coloring is something we have probably all used in cooking at some point without ever thinking about what is made from. The short answer is that it is usually made from insects or petroleum, delicious right?
Check the ingredient list on your strawberry or raspberry yogurt for “natural colour”. The natural colour in your red-berry yogurt could be carmine, a red food colour made from the dried bodies of female cochineal insects, sourced from South America or Mexico. Cochineal extract has been used for thousands of years to dye fabrics but today is used primarily as a food or cosmetic colouring. Canada’s Food and Drug Act currently allows food manufacturers to declare an added colour by either its common name or simply as “colour”, and carmine is considered a natural colour.
Your red sport drink is another place you will find the use of added colour. But where did it come from? Some sport drinks use Allura Red (also known as Red 40), a petroleum-based azo dye. Allura Red is approved for use in products such as jam, concentrated fruit juice, ice cream, pickles and relishes, ketchup and flavoured milk products.
Personally I'm not against the food coloring made from cochineal, after all Iv'e eaten fried crickets, however the idea of adding a dash of petroleum to a dessert just sounds wrong. These days I use a natural red food coloring made from beetroot extract which works very well, it can usually be found online or in good health food stores.