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Cochineal Extract

Alternate Names

Carmine, Ponceau 4R, Cochineal Red A, Brilliant Scarlet, New Coccine, SX Purple


Considered by the FDA a coloring of natural sources and therefore exempt from FDA color certification. Also see Food, Drug & Cosmetic Colors (FD&C). A dye which can produce a variety of shades from pink, red, crimson, and purple. This colorant is made from the female Cochineal insects which are native to South America. The insects are scale insects which lives and feeds on cacti. Cochineal Extract is made from the dried and pulverized insects whereas Carmine is more purified. To produce Carmine, the insects are boiled and filtered with other chemicals.

Cochineal Extract - Quick Stats

Carmine, Ponceau 4R, Cochineal Red A, Brilliant Scarlet, New Coccine, SX Purple

Allergy Information


FD&C Colors





Additional Information

Because this colorant is derived from an animal source, it is problematic to vegetarians/vegans, and within certain religions (some Muslims and Jews). Due to several studies on children and hyperactivity, the European Union requires food containing this colorant to have a label which states: "may have an adverse effect on activity in children" (see In the News section below). In 2005, the WHO issued the following statement on this colorant: "The Committee concluded that cochineal extract, carmines, and, possibly, carminic acid in foods and beverages may initiate or provoke allergic reactions in some individuals. Because some of the adverse reactions are severe, it considered that appropriate information, for example noting the presence of the colour in foods and beverages, should be provided to alert individuals who are allergic to these compounds." (Also see Possible Health Effects section).

Found In

yogurt, candy, beverages, applesauce, baked goods, red-colored foods, strawberry-flavored beverages

Possible Health Effects

Reported adverse reactions include: diarrhea, anaphylaxis, asthma, hives. Known to cause hyperactivity in children.

Allergy Information

May cause allergic reaction in sensitive individuals

In The News

4/19/12 - Starbucks removes cochineal extract and switches to lycopene to color their strawberry beverages: Cochineal Extract Update. 3/29/12 - Chicago Sun Times: Beetle coloring in Starbucks’ Strawberries & Creme Frappuccinos bugs vegans

Online Resources/Related

Print Resources

Copyright March 29, 2012 Be Food Smart, Updated May 7, 2012

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