Carmine – Cochineal Extract

carmin de cochinilla

To talk about Carmine, one should start talking about Cochineal. Cochineal (Dactylopius coccus) is a plant-parasitic hemipterans insect belonging to the family Dactylopidae, which lives in the prickly pear cactus. It is mainly used for extraction of the dye composed of two substances known as carmine and carminic acid.

It is native to Peru and Mexico. However, currently Peru is the main producer of cochineal worldwide.

The Peruvian cochineal has a high price in the international market and its demand increases more and more because the use of synthetic dyes derived from petroleum and coal is questioned for its toxic effects. The cochineal red pigment is replacing synthetic red dyes, used to color food.

The red cochineal pigment in pre-Columbian times was used by the ancient Peruvians to dye deep red wool and cotton. The cochineal lives on the stalk of the Opuntia ficus, which provides it with the necessary water and food. The Puntia grows wild in the inter-Andean valleys of Peru.


Carmine is one of the oldest dyes, obtained from carminic acid produced by cochineal bugs. This is used as a pigment or as a dye. When it is used as a pigment (water soluble), its coloring method is by dissolution and in it the coloring force is directly proportional to its purity. On the other hand, when it is used as a colorant (lake powder), its coloring method is by dispersion (distribution of color throughout the material to be placed) and in it the coloring force is not proportional to its purity.

This dye is used as an additive in foods, pharmaceuticals and cosmetics. It has the FD&C classification by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) of the United States and is included in the list of additives of the European Economic Community (current European Union) under the parameters of allowed toxicity – Admitted Daily Intake IDA.

It is probably the dye with best technological characteristics among natural ones. It gives to the foods to which is applied a very nice red color, being used in canned vegetables and marmalades, ice creams, meat and dairy products, such as yogurt and fresh cheese and both alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages.

For more information about these and other colorants please contact us at the following link.

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