Cochineal dyes and extracts - Carmine acid provide a broad spectrum of red colors from crimson to fuchsia.
Cochineal dyes and extracts are made from the crushed carcasses of a Central and Latin American insect, the female Dactylopius coccus.
Aztecs and Mexican Indians would immerse the Dactylopius insects in hot water to kill them. They were then dried in the sun; afterwards, ground into a fine powder. Considered a natural dye, cochineal - carmine is used in food products under its name or under code "E120".
The dried, uncrushed, Dactylopius insects look kind of like gray peppercorns.
Dactylopius coccus produce carminic acid to ward off their predators. Their dried crushed carcasses and acid can be used to make red dyes including colors like: crimson, scarlet, raspberry, and fuchsia that are used in foods (jams, jellies, cereals, gelatins, candies), beverages (e.g., Campari, juices), drugs and cosmetics (shampoos).
In April 2012, Starbucks Coffee Company made the decision to stop using cochineal extracts - carmine dyes in its food products such as its red velvet pop cakes. The company took this move after complaints from vegan customers.
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