What is Carmine?
Carmine, also called Crimson Lake, Carmine Lake, Cochineal, Dactylopius, Coccus Cati, Natural Red 4, C.I. 75470, or E120, is a pigment of a bright-red color obtained from the aluminium salt of carminic acid, which is produced by some scale insects, such as the cochineal scale and the Polish cochineal, and is used as a general term for a particularly deep-red color of the same name. The abdomen region that houses the fertilized eggs contains the most carmine, it is separated from the rest of the body, ground into a powder and cooked at high temperatures to extract the maximum amount of color. Carmine is used in the manufacture of artificial flowers, paints, crimson ink, rouge, and other cosmetics, and is routinely added to food products such as yogurt and certain brands of juice, the most notable ones being those of the ruby-red variety.

The vibrant color of Carmine comes from boiling the powdered form of the beetles in ammonia or sodium carbonate solution. It is also used to make a shade of purple by adding lime to the alum.

Carmine is used as a food dye in many different products such as juices, ice cream, yogurt, and candy, and as a dye in cosmetic products such as eyeshadow and lipstick. Although principally a red dye, it is found in many foods that are shades of red, pink, and purple. As a food dye it has been known to cause severe allergic reactions and anaphylactic shock in some people.

FDA considers carmine a natural color additive and exempts it from stringent certifications.

Carmine can also be found in medicines. Check labels, and be sure to call manufacturers if you have questions.