Some readers might remember an article I did a while back about the insect-derived dye called “carmine” or “cochineal”:
“Many consumers may not yet be aware that the red substance coloring their food, fabric, cosmetics or pharmaceuticals could be extracted from the crushed bodies of scale insects.
The words Cochineal, Cochineal Extract, Carmine, Crimson Lake, Natural Red 4, C.I. 75470, E120, and even some ‘natural colorings’ refer to a dye called ‘carminic acid’, which is primarily used as a food coloring and in cosmetics.
Carminic acid is a substance found in high concentration in cochineal insects. It is extracted from the insect’s body and eggs and is mixed with aluminum or calcium salts to make carmine dye (also known as cochineal).”
Although carmine has been widely accepted as a “natural” alternative to chemical dyes, it has recently received an increasing amount of public attention from squeamish consumers.
“Tomat-O-Red® is a patented tomato lycopene-based food coloring formulated to deliver vibrant, stable red colors for a wide range of food and beverage applications. A natural food ingredient, Tomat-O-Red is a safe, vegan and kosher alternative to other common red color additives produced from insect extract, specifically cochineal extract or carmine, or synthetics.”
Tomat-O-Red isn’t marketed to consumers, since it’s a food industry product. However, we can help to create demand for its use by contacting companies and asking them if their ‘natural colors’ are animal- or plant-derived. If they’re still using the antiquated ingredient known as carmine or cochineal, we can now let them know that there is an alternative available.