INS No. 120
Cochineal extract; carmine
E 120; Cochineal, Carminic acid, Carmines
CI No. 75470
Carmine occurs as bright red, friable pieces or as a dark red powder. Carmines are the aluminum or the calcium-aluminum lake, or an aluminum hydroxide substrate, of the coloring principles obtained by an aqueous extraction of cochineal. Cochineal extract is the concentrated solution obtained after removing the alcohol from an aqueous-alcoholic extract of cochineal (Dactylopius coccus costa (Coccus acti L.)); the coloring principle is chiefly carminic acid.
Carmine and cochineal can be used for coloring food, drugs and cosmetics intended for the eye area, including meat products, seafood, confectionery, alcoholic beverages and soft drinks, cider, vinegar, yogurt, baked goods, jams, jellies, dairy products, snack foods, convenient foods, fruit preparations, and seasonings.
Carmines (INS No. 120) are added to foods and beverages at concentrations up to a maximum permitted level (MPL) as adopted by the Codex Alimentarius Commission. There are more than 70 food categories for which MPLs for carmines have been adopted in the General Standard of Food Additives (GSFA).
JECFA (2001). 55th Report of the JECFA. Evaluation of Certain Food Additives and Contaminants. WHO Tech. Report. Series. No. 901, p. 10. Available online
Twenty-first Report of the Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives, Geneva, 1977, WHO Technical Report Series No. 617. Available online
EFSA ANS Panel (EFSA Panel on Food Additives and Nutrient Sources added to Food), 2015. Scientific Opinion on the re-evaluation of cochineal, carminic acid, carmines (E 120) as a food additive. EFSA Journal 2015;13(11):4288, 66 pp. Available online