Carmine has a long history as a food colour. It is obtained from the female Coccus cacti beetle.
Preparation of the carmine pigment is achieved by the formation of the aluminium lake of carminic acid.
Carmine (E120) provides a bright strawberry red shade. Carmine comes as an insoluble lake or water soluble powder. It is chemically a very stable colour and is unaffected by oxygen, light, sulphur dioxide, heat and water activity. It may precipitate under low pH conditions and concentrated blends of carmine with strongly acidic ingredients should be avoided.
The strength of carmine is measured by its Carminic acid content.
Cochineal is the extract of the Coccus Cacti beetle and is not commonly used in commercial application. Its main use is in the production of culinary colours, and is the source for all Carmines.