Carmine coloring risk, is it safe?
June 25 2016 by
Ray Sahelian, M.D.

The Food and Drug Administration requires food and cosmetic labels to list cochineal extract or carmine if a product's ingredients include either of the two red colorings that have been extracted from the ground bodies of an insect known since the time of the Aztecs (they lived in central Mexico). Release of the proposed rule came after the FDA received reports of hypersensitivity to the colorings. The widespread use of the dyes in everything from yogurt to lipstick hasn't been well-disclosed: The ingredients typically are listed as "color added" or "E120."

Carmine puts the red in ice cream, strawberry milk, fake crab and lobster, fruit cocktail cherries, port wine cheese, lumpfish and eggs. Carmine is also used in lipstick, makeup base, eye shadow, eyeliners, nail polishes and baby products. Cochineal extract shows up in fruit drinks, candy, yogurt and some processed foods. Indians living in pre-Columbian Mexico were the first to recognize a cactus-sucking insect called the Dactylopius coccus costa was a good source of dye. Now, like then, cochineal extract is made from the dried and ground female bodies of the insect. Carminic acid gives that extract its dark purplish-red color. That acid is used in turn to make carmine.

Emails received
I just wanted to drop you a quick email on behalf of my client Gruppo Campari regarding the article ‘Carmine coloring risk’. When discussing carmine, it lists Campari amongst products that contain this colorant. While this was indeed true in the past, Campari ceased using carmine in the vast majority of its worldwide production (including the US) in 2006. To avoid any inaccuracy, we were wondering whether it would be possible to not include Campari in this list, or to amend the article to reflect that Campari no longer uses carmine in the vast majority of its production.
    We removed the "and liqueurs like Campari" statement.