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Beautiful carmine color of most fruit yogurts, jellies and beverages obtained by adding to them dye called Cochineal. But hardly anyone is aware of the fact that it comes from insects . Let’s start from the beginning – that is from a cactus.
Cochineal is a dye that is derived from the aphid of the same name. These insects feed on cacti from the genus Opuntia in the tropical regions of South and Central America. Aphid produces the dye to deter other insects. Carmine is the name of the dye and the chemical compound is carminic acid.
Cochineal is one of the few natural dyes that are soluble in water and in addition does not degrade over time, is also extremely resistant to light, heat and oxidation – more than some synthetic dyes – which is why it is so desired by food manufacturers.
This pigment was probably already known by the Maya and Aztecs, and was highly valued. Its value was compared with gold. Used for dyeing textiles and cosmetics and later used as a food additive. When I came to Europe went to the Vatican, where the clothes were stained with the Roman cardinals, and the UK where he gave the color of the British Army soldiers. Quickly broke into the European cuisine as food coloring. You could find it in products like – cakes, biscuits, soft drinks, jams, jellies, yogurt, chewing gum and others.
At the turn of the century this exotic dye trade almost ceased. The market was flooded with synthetic counterparts and demand for natural coloring, including cochineal, fell sharply. In recent years, however, this pigment back into favor – consumers prefer natural dyes, manufacturers respond to demand. However, this raises controversy among vegetarians – some believe that cochineal is unsuitable for them. How is this colored aphid goes into our yogurt?
The dye is obtained from abdomens and eggs of insects. Killed by dipping them in hot water and then they are dried. You can expose them to sunlight, steam or high temperature in the incubator. Depending on the method obtains a different color.
One kilogram of cochineal is obtained from about 155 000 insects!
And how does all this affect our health? According to research cochineal is not toxic or carcinogenic properties. Impurities in the preparation of dye can cause allergies in a small group of people and can lead to anaphylactic shock. Carminic acid is safe for health. Cochineal is often confused with the red cochineal , which is a synthetic dye nitric – E124.
Most consumers are unaware that the pigment in their yogurt comes from the aphid but that is precisely the secret of beautiful colors in our snacks.