|Additive Summary||Carmine (E120)|
|Essence||Carmine or E120 is referred to as a natural dye. But it’s not our typical natural dye derived from vegetables or fruits; instead, it’s something created from crushed insects.|
|Names||Carmine, E120, Cochineal, Crimson Lake, Natural Red 4, Carmine Lake, Cochineal extract, CI 75470, Carminic Acid.|
|Sourcing||As an additive, it is derived from carminic acid which is a substance obtained from a few red-colored scale insects. Typically, it is the Dactylopius coccus (True cochineal) but it can also be Porphyrophora polonica (Polish cochineal), Porphyrophora hamelii (Armenian cochineal), and some others.|
|Manufacturing||To produce Carmine, the cochineal bugs are boiled in an ammonia or sodium carbonate solution. Then, what’s left of it is deprived of all the insoluble matter. Then, what’s left of that is treated with alum (a hydrated double sulfate of Aluminum and Potassium). Substances like Citric Acid, Borax, Gelatin, or Stannous Chloride can also be used in the process to somewhat alter the outcome. To create one kilogram of Carmine, on average 155 000 insects are needed. The end-result (Carmine) is typically high in Aluminum content.|
|Application||Coloring (vibrant, bright red, highly water-soluble).|
|Acceptable Daily Intake||Despite being considered supposedly safe in doses up to 5 milligrams per kilogram of body weight, it can cause trouble even in doses as small as 1 milligram.|
|Side Effects||Known to cause severe allergies, hyperactivity in children, facial swelling, wheezing, rash, redness. Occupational asthma is also a very real thing for people in the factories that make Carmine. The food dye retains harmful proteins from the crushed insects potentially being a strain to gut health. Furthermore, the fact that it uses Aluminum in the manufacturing process is a hazard on its own.|
|Studies||3,400+ studies on Pubmed. 110+ studies on safety.|
|Diet Restrictions||Since it is extracted from insects, it is not compatible with vegan or vegetarian diets. Not okay for some religious groups either. Not compatible with Kosher.|
|Health Knight Assessment
||Likely harmful. | Category 4 Additive.|
|Products||Used in supplements like the 21st Century Lycopene, Nature Made Vitamin B12, Nature’s Way HeartCare Hawthorn, Azo Cranberry Urinary Tract Health, Nature’s Bounty Hair, Skin & Nails, and many others.
Never used as the beneficial (active) ingredient. And not found naturally in foods.
Used in processed foods like cakes, ice creams, sausages, candy, yogurts, juices, snacks made for children, burgers, and others.