E120(i) Carmine
E120(ii) Cochineal extract

CI 75470


The natural red food coloring isolated from the insect Dactylopius coccus lives on different kinds of succulents. E120(i) is a solid color, while E120(ii) is a crude extract. For more information, see the background paper on cochineal.


This pigment is produced by cochineal acid, which is extracted from some scale insects, such as cochineal scales (Dactylopius coccus) and certain porphyra (Armenian cochineal and Polish cochineal). Carmine is a coloring agent used in the manufacture of artificial flowers, paint, deep red ink, rouge and other cosmetics and some medicines.

To prepare carmine, the powdered scales are boiled in ammonia or sodium carbonate solution. After separating the insoluble matter, the extract was treated with alum to precipitate a red solid. This kind of sediment is called "Rouge Lake" or "Crimson Lake". The absence of iron can ensure the purity of the color. Stannous chloride, citric acid, borax or gelatin can be added to change the precipitation. The traditional deep red is not only affected by carminic acid, but also by its choice of chelating metal salt ions. For the purple shade, add lime to the alum.

Functions and features

Red food coloring. Easily soluble in water.


A variety of products.

Daily intake

Up to 5 mg/kg body weight.

side effect

The concentration used in food has no side effects. A few cases report an increase in ADHD. When used in cosmetics, contact allergy is well known.

Food use regulations


In January 2006, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) evaluated a proposal that requires foods containing carmine to be listed by name on the ingredient label. It was also announced that the FDA will separately review the ingredient labels of prescription drugs containing carmine pigment. From the request, the Center for Science in the Public Interest urged the FDA to require ingredient labels to clearly stipulate that carmine insects are derived and may cause severe allergic reactions and anaphylactic shock are rejected by the FDA. The food industry strongly opposed the idea of ​​"insect-based" on the label, and the FDA agreed to allow the use of "cochineal extract" or "carmine."

European Union

In the EU, the use of carmine in food is regulated by the European Commission’s directives on food additives in general and food dyes in particular, and listed under the names of cochineal carmine, carminic acid, carmine and natural red 4 as EU approval E 120 additives in the list of food additives. The Food Dyestuffs Directive only approves the use of carmine for certain food groups and specifies the maximum amount allowed or restricted to achieve quantum satisfaction.

The EU Directive 2000/13/EC on food labeling stipulates that carmine (like all food additives) must be included in the list of food ingredients, accompanied by its additive category and listed name or additive number, that is, as a food coloring cochineal Red or food color E 120 is expressed in the local market language.

Since January 2012, EFSA has changed the way it allows Carmine E120 to be used in pharmaceutical products. When used in the British Pharmacopoeia, EFSA expressed concern about the increasing number of allergic reactions to insect-derived carmine (E120.360). Previous medicinal products containing insect-derived carmine have been replaced by synthetic versions of food coloring. Internal research shows that new formulations of popular anti-nausea and weight gain liquid medications significantly reduce the risk of allergic reactions. The new formula is known to be derived from plants and uses calcium oxide to measure the color depth.

Dietary restriction

Since E120 is extracted from insects, it cannot be eaten by vegans, vegetarians and certain religious groups.


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