Carmine, also called Crimson Lake, Cochineal, Natural Red 4, C.I. 75470, or E120, is a pigment of a bright red color obtained from the carminic acid produced by some scale insects, such as the cochineal and the Polish cochineal. Carmine is used in the manufacture of artificial flowers, paints, crimson ink, rouge, and other cosmetics, and is routinely added to food products such as yogurt and certain brands of juice, most notably those of the ruby-red variety.
Carmine may be prepared from cochineal, by boiling dried insects in water to extract the carminic acid and then treating the clear solution with alum, cream of tartar, stannous chloride, or potassium hydrogen oxalate. The quality of carmine is affected by the temperature and the degree of illumination during its preparation, sunlight being requisite for the production of a brilliant hue. Good carmine should crumble readily between the fingers when dry.
Carmine is used as a food dye in many different products such as juices, ice cream, yogurt, and candy, and as a dye in cosmetic products such as eyeshadow and lipstick. Although principally a red dye, it is found in many foods that are shades of red, pink, and purple.
In January 2006, the FDA evaluated a proposal that would require food products containing carmine to list it by name on the ingredient label. Food industries were aggressively opposed to the idea of writing "insect based" on the label and they finally agreed to simply putting "carmine".