Cochineal Carmine: Exploring the Rich Palette of Cochineal Colour in Products

carmine natural de cochinilla cochineal extract

To talk about the Carmine color of Cochineal, we must first talk about Cochineal. The Cochineal (Dactylopius coccus) is a female insect parasitic on hemipteran plants that belongs to the family Dactylopidae. Which develops in the prickly pear cactus. It is mainly used to extract a dye composed of two substances known as carmine and carminic acid.

It is native to Peru and Mexico. Even so, it has a presence throughout South America and the Canary Islands. However, currently Peru is the main producer of cochineal in the world.

Cochineal extract, obtained from scale insects, is renowned for its vibrant red hue and its use as a natural red colorant. Scale insects, commonly dried for extraction, serve as the source for this extract, dried cochineal, historically employed as a red dye

Just like cochineal insects, precisely the female cochineal, many dried insects are the new alternative to dyes and additives for the food and cosmetic industry.

Ancient Peruvians used the red pigment of cochineal in pre-Columbian times to dye wool and cotton red. The mealybug lives on top of the Opuntia ficus tuna cluster, which provides it with water and food. The prickly pear grows wild in the inter-Andean valleys of Peru.

Food colouring cochineal is highly valued for its high value in the international market. Peruvian cochineal is in high demand, even more so due to the use of synthetic dyes derived from petroleum and carbon.
Their toxic effects raise questions about these artificial dyes. Food coloring derived from cochineal has replaced the aforementioned dyes for coloring food.


Derived from carminic acid produced by cochineal, Carmine is one of the oldest dyes used as a pigment or colorant.. When used as a (liquid) pigment, its staining method involves dissolution. The intensity of the coloration being directly proportional to its purity. Being a (solid) dye, its staining method is dispersion, issuing the color throughout the material, and in this case the strength of the coloring is not proportional to its purity.

This dye, also known as Cochineal Colour, serves as an component in food, medicine, and cosmetics. It is included in the FD&C classification of the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Additionally, it is listed among the additives of the European Economic Community (now European Union) within permissible toxicity parameters, specifically the Acceptable Daily Intake (ADI).

Among natural colors, Cochineal Colour stands out for its excellent technological characteristics. It imparts a delightful red hue to food and is used in various products, including canned vegetables, jellies, ice cream, meat, and dairy products like yogurt, fresh barbecue, and both alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages.



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