Characteristics of Cochineal Pigments

Carminic Acid



Light and heat stable

Orange at pH lower than 5 and over 8

becomes bluish-red It is used alone or in conjunction with other reds in all types of foods, drinks, jellies, and preserves, among others


Light and heat stable

A variety of shades are obtained from yellow-red to almost blue

Used to produce any type of food where red color is needed such as in meats, tomato sauce in fish conserves, in ice creams, topping, yogurts, and surimi, among others

Source: Adapted from Schul (1994).56

extract is obtained from the dried bodies; around 80,000 to 100,000 insects are required to produce 1 kg of the colorant. Originally, pigment extraction was carried out with hot water to obtain a product known as "simple extracts of cochineal." Today, extraction is carried out with ethanol and a red solution is obtained. Alcohol is eliminated, resulting in a concentrated solution with 2 to 4% carminic acid that is the main colorant compound.356

Carminic acid is water-soluble but has the ability to react with a variety of metals forming water-insoluble pigments called carmines. Particularly, the term carmine is used in the United States to design the calcium or calcium-aluminum lake of carminic acid; the FDA requires a minimum of 50% carminic acid.3,56

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