ingredient information
Carmine Color
Carmine is a brilliant red dye made from crushed scale insects, typically cochineal or Polish cochineal insects. This dye is used in a wide variety of products, from cheese to paints, and people are often unaware of its use, due to the fact that labeling laws do not usually require the disclosure of carmine. Carmine has attracted a great deal of attention in some communities such as the vegetarian community due to its use as a food additive. In many regions of the world, producers can simply use the euphemism “color added� to disclose the presence of carmine, but most consumers are not savvy enough to know what that phrase means. Carmine is also listed as crimson lake or natural red number four, and in the European Union, it is identified as E120. On occasion, it will be explicitly listed as “carmine�on a label, or as “cochineal dye.� To make carmine, producers collect thousands of cochineal insects and then crush them. Depending on the conditions in which the insects are crushed, the color of the dye can vary considerably, and this is an important consideration for companies which want to make consistent dyes. The crushing causes the insects to release carminic acid, a substance which they generate to repel predators, and the carminic acid can be treated to yield carmine. As a food additive, carmine is a source of concern to some people. For vegetarians and people who follow religions with dietary restrictions, the fact that carmine is often not labeled is very frustrating, as it can make carmine hard to avoid. Some people also have adverse reactions to carmine, which has led to a push among food safety activists to clearly label carmine so that people who wish to avoid it may do so.