Rating: Certain people should avoid
Cochineal extract is a coloring obtained from the cochineal insect, which lives on cactus plants in Peru, the Canary Islands, and elsewhere. Carmine is a more purified coloring made from cochineal, but in both cases, carminic acid actually provides the color. These colorings, which are extremely stable, are used in some red, pink or purple candy, yogurt, ice cream, beverages, and other foods, as well as in drugs and cosmetics. They appear to be safe, except that a small percentage of consumers suffer allergic reactions ranging from hives to life-threatening anaphylactic shock. Carmine and cochineal have long been listed on labels simply as "artificial coloring" or "color added." In 2009, in response to a petition by the Center for Science in the Public Interest, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration gave the food industry until January 1, 2011, to clearly identify the colorings as carmine or cochineal extract on food labels to help consumers identity the cause of their allergic reaction and avoid the colorings in the future. Unfortunately, sensitive individuals must endure any number of allergic reactions before identifying the cause. The FDA rejected CSPI's request for labels to disclose that carmine is extracted from insects so vegetarians and others who want to avoid animal products could do so.