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Cocktails & Spirits

Campari changes carmine to artificial color?

Karen_Schaffer | Jun 1, 200710:12 PM     27

I recently bought a new bottle of Campari and noticed an interesting change on the label. The old bottle (but not that old, no more than a year) says "Contains natural carmine." The new bottle says "Artificially colored." I did not, alas, notice the difference in time to do a taste comparison, though given Campari's assertive flavor, I doubt I would have noticed anything (if that was indeed the only change).

Carmine is made from cochineal beetles, which some folks find gross and others want to avoid ingesting for philosophical/religious reasons. There have also been a small number of cases of allergic reactions to carmine ranging from asthma to anaphalactic shock. So after reading this, I think, okay, maybe there was good reason for them changing to a 'safer' (we hope!) artificial colorant, though my knee-jerk preference is to stick with the natural coloring.

But then I found sites that claim foods and cosmetics using carmine are allowed to call it just "artificial color," obscuring the issue for those who want to avoid it. So now I'm wondering, did Campari really change the formula or just the packaging?!

And why don't they make a version without that lurid red color anyhow? I wonder what color it would be without it. Clear? Certainly not dark like Angostura bitters. Anyhow, I know, they've built their whole advertising around that color. Though this could be a whole new line -- Campari Clear. Wouldn't you buy it? I would.

Speaking of the packaging, the new bottle, annoyingly, is taller than the old bottle. Not by a lot, just a little, just enough to no longer fit on the shelf where I store it. So I poured the contents of the new bottle into the old one, and that's why I can't do a taste test.

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