What do Minute Maid® or Ocean Spray® ruby red grapefruit juice, Revolutionary War British soldier uniforms, and Almay lipstick have in common? Yes, they’re all red. But there’s more to it than that. They, along with a myriad of other cosmetics, foods, and a few fabrics, all contain a red dye known as cochineal red or its derivative, carmine.
Almost everything these days contains some sort of artificial color. While some people avoid these dyes, most don’t think twice even if they do happen to read the label. Besides, cochineal isn’t artificial. It’s a natural product that has been used for hundreds of years.
So just what is it, and where does it come from?