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 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).
In good news for those of us looking to avoid the products of animal exploitation, the ingredient must be included on packaging labels when used as a food additive, as it has been known to cause severe allergic reactions, asthmatic attacks, and anaphylactic shock in some people.
As of January 5, 2011, a new U.S. Food and Drug Administration regulation will require all foods and cosmetics containing cochineal to declare it on their ingredient labels, due to objections from people who have concerns for reasons of health, ethics or religion.