FunCarminic acid: how to obtain the colorant E-120 that...

Carminic acid: how to obtain the colorant E-120 that is used as a food additive

Surely you have heard of carminic acid , that coloring, which among others, is used as a food additive. This chemical is used as a red dye extracted from cochineal or other insects. Where else is it used? How is it obtained?

Among the various uses that should be noted on this acid, it is seen as a colorant in certain cosmetics such as lipstick. And in the food industry it gives flavor and red color to food or drinks.

Where and how is it extracted?

Carminic acid is that dye that comes from the substance that is extracted from certain insects. Especially for the cosmetic industry, mealybugs are used, and their extraction procedure is as follows:

  • Mealybugs dry up
  • They are boiled at 100ºC in water with some sulfuric acid.
  • The acid dissolves.
  • It is precipitated by adding alum and lime.
  • Carminic acid binds to the aluminum ion as a chelate ligand.

Take into account that 1 kg of insects gives approximately 50 g of carmine.

Characteristics of carminic acid

  • It is insoluble in water and alcohol, but soluble in alkaline media.
  • It withstands heat and chemical oxidation very well.
  • It is a stable substance.
  • It has different shades, orange (lower pH), between red and orange (intermediate pHs) and purple (for higher pHs).

Controversy

For the uses of the cosmetic or pharmaceutical industries, there is certain controversy, since it is extracted from an insect . But the truth is that it is not the first and only time that this is done for other uses, because there are certain living beings that take advantage of certain things, especially also to make carminic acid.

Contraindications

As we have specified, it is used in a variety of industries, but one of them is food. That is, it is a food coloring, but this, in the same way that it happens with others, can cause allergic reactions.

It is not generalized, it only happens to certain people. But when it happens it matters. It can also be counterproductive for dieters.

While, due to their conceptions and philosophy, both vegetarians and vegans are against these practices by not eating anything that comes from animal origin. As we have commented, there is some controversy with certain issues.

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