Carmine is a red pigment extracted from female cochineal beetle. Presence of carminic acid gives the red color to the beetle. This color is used in wide range of products including drinks, juices, candles and cosmetics. Many times, Carmine is not listed on the product packaging and is referred to as ‘natural You do not have access to view this node’. History reveals that Carmine was used as fabric color in Central America since 15th century. With the advent of synthetic colors and dyes, demand for this color decreased gradually.
The cochineal is a scale insect belonging to the suborder Sternorrhyncha. It is scientifically known as Dactylopius coccus. These insects are native to subtropical and tropical Mexico and South America. They survive on cactus plants. Both matured and young female cochineals produce red pigment so as to keep the predators away. Mature female cochineals grow to about the size of a "match head". Once the female insect attaches itself to the plant, it sheds its "legs" and become immobile. The male cochineals are small insects with two wings. They are highly mobile. Cochineals are very delicate and extremely sensitive towards cold and wet weather. They cannot survive in heavily shaded areas. The adult female remains enclosed within a thin, white silk sac.
The classification of Cochineal insect is
Commercial production of carmine is a laborious procedure. Firstly, the cochineal insects are grown on cactus plants for around three months. Picking these insects from the cacti is a very delicate process. They are carefully brushed from the plants and put into bags. At the production house, these insects are placed in very hot water or kept under harsh sunlight. One pound of Cochineal is produced by squeezing 70,000 insects. One cochineal insect contains around 18 to 20% of carminic acid stored in their abdomen. Their abdomen also houses fertilized eggs. When all the anatomical fragments (except eggs) get completely dry, they are grounded and cooked to extract optimum amount of red pigment. Concentrated carmine color gets precipitated at the bottom of the cooking utensil. Once the liquid on the surface is removed, the pure carmine (settled at the bottom) is collected. Various chemicals used during this production process include citric acid, gelatin, stannous chloride or borax.
Carmine is known by various names such as Cochineal, Cochineal Extract, Crimson Lake, C.I. 75470, E120 and Natural Red. Carminic acid is commonly used in beauty products and food colorings. Water soluble Carmine is essentially used in alcohols and other beverages like Campari. Insoluble Carmine is used in processed foods such as sausages, meat, bakery products, marinades, toppings, pie fillings, jams, desserts, icings, cheese, gelatin desserts, juices, preserves, sweets and sauces. In the cosmetic industry, Carmine is used in all types of hair and skin care products such as face powders, lipsticks, blushes and rouges. Pharmaceutical industry makes use of Carmine for coloring ointments and pills. It is used as a stain in the microbiology lab, in the production of artificial flowers and decorative items.
It has been made mandatory by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration Department from January 5, 2011 that if Carmine is included as an ingredient, it should be clearly mentioned as an additive. This is more important because Carmine is known to cause asthmatic attacks, intense allergies and anaphylactic shock in some persons.