27 March 2012

Food Additives - Cochineal / Carmine / E120

Dried cochineal beetles - Source: Wikimedia
Cochineal / carminic acid / carmine / E120 / Crimson Lake / Ammonium Carmine / Natural Red 4 / CI 75470
  • Classified as a natural food colour.
  • Is bright red in colour but can vary according to extraction method.
  • Derived from the crushed and dried carcasses of the cochineal beetle, therefore not vegan or vegetarian friendly.
  • The red colour comes from carminic acid that the beetle produces to protect against other insects. 
  • It is stable in heat, light and oxygen, which means the colour won't fade easily.
  • It is used in food, cosmetics, industrial and household items: 
    • Pink lemonade, ruby red grapefruit juice, orange and strawberry juice, tropical juice or pomegranate juice. 
    • Protein shakes and energy drinks.
    • Fruit cups.
    • Cookies, candy and gum.
    • Yoghurt and sorbet.
    • Port wine cheese.
    • Rice and beans.
    • Frozen meals. 
    • Is used to colour ruby-red juices, like pink grapefruit juice.
    • Cochineal is what makes Starbucks Strawberry Frappuchino the colour it is.
    • Rolaids, cough drops and vitamins.
    • Can be used to colour artificial flowers.
    • Some paint can contain cochineal.
    • Cochineal - Source: Wikimedia
    • Can be used to dye microbiological slides.
Is it bad for me?
  • It is possible to be allergic to it. It is a contact allergen (causes allergic dermatitis in some individuals) and ingestion may also cause an allergic reaction in some individuals.
  • The Hyperactive Children's Support Group recommends that cochineal is eliminated in children with hyperactivity.
  • Research studies on the adverse effects have had mixed results. One study shows no effect while another did.
  • The FDA now requires carmine/cochineal to be listed on food labels intended for human use.
  • Not suitable for vegetarians or vegans.
  • Not certified as Kosher by the Jewish community.
  • Not a Halal food item. 
A list of food additives can be found here

Chung, K., Baker JR, J. R., Baldwin, J. L. and Chou, A., 2001. Identification of carmine allergens among three carmine allergy patients.. Allergy, 56(1), pp. 73-7.
Farnam, A., 2012. Starbugs? Strawberry Frappuccino Colored by Insects. [Online] Available at: http://news.yahoo.com/starbuggs-strawberry-frappuccino-colored-insects-162910712--abc-news.html [Accessed 26 March 2012].
FDA, 2009. Guidance for Industry: Cochineal Extract and Carmine: Declaration by Name on the Label of All Foods and Cosmetic Products That Contain These Color Additives; Small Entity Compliance Guide. [Online] Available at: http://www.fda.gov/ForIndustry/ColorAdditives/GuidanceComplianceRegulatoryInformation/ucm153038.htm [Accessed 13 March 2012].
Food Facts Inc, 2012. foodfacts.com. [Online] Available at: http://www.foodfacts.com/index.cfm [Accessed 13 March 2012].
Grant, D., Gaunt, I. F. and Carpanini, F. M., 1987. Teratogenicity and embryotoxicity study of carmine of cochineal in the rat.. Food Chem toxicol, 25(12), pp. 913-7.
Guided Wasy Technologies, 2012. Halal Food Guide. [Online] Available at: http://www.guidedways.com/halalfoodguide.php# [Accessed 13 March 2012].
Judaism 101, 2012. Kashrut: Jewish Dietary Laws. [Online] Available at: http://www.jewfaq.org/kashrut.htm [Accessed 13 March 2012].
NATCOL, 2011. What are natural food colours?. [Online] Available at: http://www.natcol.org/What%20are%20natural%20food%20colours [Accessed 5 Marcy 2012].
Tanaka, T., 1995. Reproductive and Neurobehavioral Effects of Cochineal Administered To Mice in the Diet. Toxicology and Industrial Health, 11(1), pp. 1-12.
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