Cochineal coloring

Cochineal is the name of crimson or carmine dye. This natural red dye derives from the bodies of female Dactylopius coccus, insects that grow on cochineal cacti widespread in Central and Southern America, Southern Europe, and India. The insect produces carminic acid which deters predation by other insects.

This dye has been widely used since sixteenth century as a coloring agent in processed food and drinks, cosmetics and textiles. Nowadays, it is found in hamburgers, sausages, alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks, sweets and fruit yoghurts. The water-soluble form of this dye is found in alcoholic drinks with calcium carmine.

After synthetic pigments and dyes such as alizarin were invented in the late 19th century, natural-dye production gradually diminished. However, current health concerns over artificial food additives have renewed the popularity of cochineal dyes, and the increased demand has made cultivation of the insect profitable again. One reason for its popularity is that, unlike many commercial synthetic red dyes, it is not toxic or carcinogenic.

The dye is extracted from the female insects. Depending on the method of extraction, cochineal dye comes in different shades such as scarlet, orange, and red. The coloring comes from carminic acid. Cochineal extract's natural carminic-acid content is usually 19–22%.

Carminic acid is a hydroxyanthraquinone with a lateral chain of C- glycosyl and only one position free on the aromatic nucleus. Carminic acid has been widely used due to its relatively high chemical and biological stability and its apparent lack of mutagenic, carcinogenic or genotoxic effects. This stability and the concomitant absence of toxicity has been attributed to the presence of the C-Glycosyl moiety.
Cochineal coloring

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