What Is In Cochineal Food Colouring?


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Kath Senior answered
Cochineal extract is a chemical extracted from the eggs of the cochineal beetle, or from the dried beetle itself, which lives on cactus plants in Peru, the Canary Islands, and other tropical places. The beetles and their eggs have an intense red colour, and the food colouring made from them is bright red.

The substance that is responsible for the colour is carminic acid.

Colourings made from cochineal are available for home baking but they are also in many commercial food products such as yoghurts, cakes, sweets, ice creams, drinks such as Campari and other 'pink' drinks.

Cochineal has caused allergic reactions that range from hives to life-threatening anaphylactic shock. It is not known how many people suffer from this allergy. Natural or synthetic substitutes are available.

Although cochineal is relatively safe, there is a general trend towards advising people to steer clear of colourants when and where possible - they have no nutrional value and some may be harmful.

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