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Is carmine vegan or carminic acid?

Is carmine vegan? About the red dye and carminic acid

Is carmine vegan, or not? Maybe you're standing in the grocery store eyeing the ingredients list of a jam or lipstick - or maybe you're just interested in plant and non-plant ingredients. Either way, you've come to the right place! The red colorant carmine E 120 is found in countless everyday products.

In this article, I will briefly and concisely explain why exactly carmine is not vegan, which products contain the colorant and what alternatives you have as a vegan. Let's go!

  1. Definition
  2. Vegan?
  3. Consumer products
  4. Alternatives
  5. Closing words

What is carmine anyway?

Carmine is a light- and heat-resistant colorant consisting mainly of carminic acid, strong red dyewhich is mainly used in the cosmetics and food industries. It is obtained from female, pregnant cochineal scale insects, a type of insect that mainly lives on cacti in South and North America. The animals are collected for the production of the dye, boiled and mixed with chemical additives.

Is carmine vegan? Yes or no?

Is carmine vegan? Cochineal scale lice linger on cacti

To produce one kilogram of carmine, you need between 60,000 and 100,000 scale insects killed ₁ There are even farms where animals are bred specifically for the production of the blood-red dye. As animals are exploited and killed for this purpose, products containing carminic acid are not vegan.

If we made our own jam (which sometimes contains carmine), we would hardly use the disgusting idea to crush Central and South American insects for this purpose. But the industry does that.

Also the performance, Killed lice in hair shampoo is kind of absurd, don't you think? Who would voluntarily pay money for that?

What does carmine contain?

With the knowledge you've just gained, I think you'll be looking very closely in the future. There are mostly red-colored or bright red food and cosmetic productsin which real carmine is used. As a vegan, you need to be particularly careful with products in the following categories:

  • Confectionery
  • Jam/marmalade
  • Sugar sprinkles
  • Cake (icing)
  • Preserved cherries
  • Lemonade
  • Meat and sausage products
  • Lipstick
  • Eye shadow
  • Nail polish
  • Shampoo
  • Crayons
  • Wall paint

Do you know of any other product groups or products with carminic acid? Then feel free to drop me a comment with your note!

How can I get around the lousy dye?

Carmine is found in food and cosmetics

Now I would like to show you how you can find consumer goods with carminic acid among the ingredients. To do this, it is first advisable to know the common names. Common terms for the red, animal dye are above all:

  • Carmine
  • Carminic acid
  • Carmine E 120
  • True carmine
  • Cochineal
  • Cochinille
  • Cochineal red A
  • Cochineal
  • Carmine

Also the App CodeCheck will help you with a simple, short scan to expose manufacturers who use non-vegan carmine for their products. A vegan alternative is the synthetic carmine E 124 carmine. It is very rarely found in industrially manufactured products - instead, real carmine is used. However, E 124 is questionable from a health point of view due to the azo dyes it often contains.

Tip: At Non vegan E numbers I will introduce you to many more additives that are or could be of animal origin.

What other vegan alternatives are there?

From the Makeup Root or the Alkenna root for example, a red, purely vegetable dye can be extracted. It can also be used in cooking with the help of red beet imitate. I recently had a vegan steak that imitated the bloody meat with the help of the popular vegetable.

Apart from the alternatives for carmine mentioned above, it can of course also make sense to avoid the typical products with carmine altogether - because they are all not vital. On the contrary: for many people, the addition of "real carmine" leads to allergic reactions such as skin rashes and irritated airways.

Carmine is made from lice and is therefore not vegan

The bright red dye carmine unfortunately has a deadly history for Cochineal scale insects, which is why it is not suitable for vegans. Unfortunately, there really are countless products that contain carminic acid. As is so often the case, it therefore helps to To take a closer look at the ingredients list. Here you have learned what to look out for - and what alternatives are available for carminic acid.

Do you have any questions, tips or experiences with the ingredient carmine E 120 that you would like to share? Then I look forward to your comment!

Stay animal-friendly,

Christoph from CareElite - Plastic-free living

PS.: You want to know, why i live vegan and make no exception for insects? You can find out in the linked article!

₁ Hans Strümpel: Homoptera - Handbuch der Zoologie. Volume 4, sub-volume 28, De Gruyter, Berlin/New York 1983.

₂ health&media GmbH: Carmine red allergy (as of 29.06.2018), available at [06.01.2022].

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* Links with asterisks are so-called Affiliate linksIf you click on it and buy something, you automatically and actively support my work with, as I receive a small share of the proceeds - and of course nothing changes in the product price. Many thanks for your support and best regards, Christoph!

Christoph Schulz

Christoph Schulz

I'm Christoph, an environmental scientist and author - and here at CareElite I'm campaigning against plastic waste in the environment, climate change and all the other major environmental problems of our time. Together with other environmentally conscious bloggers, I want to give you tips & tricks for a naturally healthy, sustainable life as well as your personal development.

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