Carmine is a natural red pigment, which is formed from precipitation of carminic acid with aluminum salts. Carminic acid is the coloring agent extracted from the dried body of a cochineal insect. The insect produces the acid as a defensive chemical to protect itself from predators. Carmine is used as a dye in food products (such as candy and jelly), cosmetics (such as lipstick), pharmaceuticals and textiles.
Carmine is considered safe to use according to the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and European Union. As carmine can cause severe allergic reactions in some people, and it may not seem favorable to some vegans, it must be conspicuously declared on the label of all products. Carmine is also identified in ingredients as cochineal extract, natural red 4 and E120.