Cochineal Dyes and Extracts - Carmine Acid

Food Color Additives

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.

Return to Food Color Additives from Cochineal Dyes Extracts - Carmine Acid

Go to Food Additives and Ingredients from Cochineal Dyes Extracts - Carmine Acid

Go to Food Additives Chart from Cochineal Dyes Extracts - Carmine Acid

New! Comments

Have something to say about what you just read? Leave me a comment in the box below.
Share this page:

Food Additives Resources

Got questions?

Get answers about food additives and ingredients.

Food and Drug Administration

Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (CFSAN)  5100 Paint Branch Parkway College Park, MD 20740-3835

Color Additives Information Color Additives 

Toll free information line: 1-888-SAFEFOOD (723-3366)

U.S. Department of Agriculture

Food Safety and Inspection Service Food Safety Education Staff 1400 Independence Ave., SW Room 2932-S

Washington, DC 20250-3700

Food Additives Information Fact Sheets on Additives

Meat and Poultry Hotline: 1-800-535-4555

TTY: 1-800-256-7072


Food and Nutrition Information Center (FNIC)

USDA Ag Research Service

10301 Baltimore Ave.

Beltsville, MD 20705-2351



International Food Information Council Foundation (IFIC) IFIC

1100 Connecticut Ave., NW Suite 430

Washington, DC 20036

202-296-6540                Email:

American Dietetic Association (ADA) ADA

216 W. Jackson Blvd. Chicago, IL 60606-6995


The Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network (FAAN) FAAN

11781 Lee Jackson Hwy. Suite 160 Fairfax, VA 22033 1-800-929-4040


Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) IFT

525 West Van Buren Suite 1000 Chicago, IL 60607 1-800-IFT-FOOD (438-3663)