Food colors from insects

The red food colorants cochineal and carmine are made from ground bugs. Next time you’re browsing the supermarket in search of the makings of that night’s dinner, pause a moment to read the ingredients labels of your favorite red-colored ingestibles and cosmetics. Chances are, you’ll discover a notation for cochineal, carmine, or carminic acid, pigments whose origins might surprise and possibly disgust you.

Cochineal and its close cousin carmine (also known as carminic acid) are derived from the crushed carcasses of a particular South and Central American insect. These popular colorants, which today are used to impart a deep red shade to fruit juices, gelatins, candies, shampoos, and more, come from the female Dactylopius coccus, an insect that inhabits a type of cactus known as Opuntia

Dactylopius-Coccus-Image-by-University-of-Turin-ItalyThe insect produces carminic acid that deters predation by other insects. Carminic acid, typically 17-24% of dried insects’ weight, can be extracted from the body and eggs, then mixed with aluminium or calcium salts to make carmine dye, also known as cochineal. Today, carmine is primarily used as a colorant in food and in lipstick.

Carmine (/ˈkɑːrmɪn/ or /ˈkɑːrmaɪn/), also called cochineal, cochineal extract, crimson lake or carmine lake, natural red 4,[1] C.I. 75470,[1] or E120, is a pigment of a bright-red color obtained from the aluminium salt of carminic acid; it is also a general term for a particularly deep-red color. The pigment is produced from some scale insects such as the cochineal scale and certain Porphyrophora species (Armenian cochineal and Polish cochineal). Carmine is used in the manufacture of artificial flowers, paints, crimson ink, rouge, and other cosmetics, and is routinely added to food products such as yogurt, candy and certain brands of juice, the most notable ones being those of the ruby-red variety.

food and insectsCarmine (/ˈkɑːrmɪn/ or /ˈkɑːrmaɪn/), also called cochineal, cochineal extract, crimson lake or carmine lake, natural red 4,[1] C.I. 75470,[1] or E120, is a pigment of a bright-red color obtained from the aluminium salt of carminic acid; it is also a general term for a particularly deep-red color. The pigment is produced from some scale insects such as the cochineal scale and certain Porphyrophora species (Armenian cochineal and Polish cochineal). Carmine is used in the manufacture of artificial flowers, paints, crimson ink, rouge, and other cosmetics, and is routinely added to food products such as yogurt, candy and certain brands of juice, the most notable ones being those of the ruby-red variety.