Today I want to talk to you about carmine, also known as E120, cochineal, carminic acid, crimson lake, natural red 4, and can also be found in other forms such as calcium carmine or ammonium carmine. Carmine is used to give a deep red colour to foods, make-up, paint, etc.

Now it gets interesting…

Carmine is made from particular species of bugs. When killed, either by being dropped in boiling water, by being left in the sun, by steam or by being left to die in a hot oven, the bugs produce a red substance that is used as dye.

Photo by Vahe Martirosyan:

Note regarding the cover photo: Strawberries are not dyed red using bugs, but I had to have an innocent looking cover photo otherwise you wouldn’t read the article πŸ˜‰

Eating bugs is gross (and not nice for the bugs!) and it appears that many food companies have stopped using squished bugs to colour your food and drink, including products like Tropicana, Skittles, Monster energy drink. However, even though there are food dyes that don’t rely on killing bugs, some companies are still going strong with their use of carmine…

For my english readers, I went through a few supermarket websites and found the following products that contain carmine:

Richmond sausages
Walls sausages
Mr Kipling strawberry slices
Mr Kipling raspberry sponge puddings
Asda’s raspberry unicorn spread
Asda’s crab sticks
Young’s crab sticks
Angel delight strawberry dessert pot
Ambrosia devon strawberry custard

This list was found during one afternoon… Imagine what I could find if I had all day?

Particularly for you lovely animal eaters, this website recommends using carmine to give meat a red tint. Adding red dye to meat can make it look fresher than it is.

“Love, what’s for dinner tonight?”
“Old animal flesh and bugs.”
“Mmmmm my favourite!”

Some red alcoholic drinks use carmine too. Campari used to, but they altered the recipe in 2006 and became a bug-friendly company.

On a more serious note, carmine has been known to cause allergic reactions and is not recommended for consumption by children.

In case anyone would like their food to be bug-free, then maybe check out vegan alternatives. For example, Richmond sausages made with animals also contain bugs, but the vegan version obviously doesn’t. 

Despite my efforts to put you off of non-vegan food, I want to be helpful. So below is a list of food items you might want to avoid if you’re vegan or if you’re non-vegan and you’d prefer to avoid extra bones, cartilage, hair, bugs, wax or skin in your food.

E120 – Carmine
E441 – Gelatine
E542 – Edible Bone Phosphate
E901 – Beeswax, white and yellow
E904 – Shellac
E910 – L-cysteine
E913 – Lanolin
E920 – L-cysteine
E921 – L-cysteine
E966 – Lactitol

Lastly, to the people that claim I should prefer eating bugs rather than artificial colouring: I would prefer my food to have no added colouring. I would prefer to eat grey food. Thanks for your amazing opinion though.

I hope you’re now grossed out and one step closer to going vegan πŸ’š