Other names for carmine are cochineal, carmine acid, natural red 4 and CI 75470. It is a natural food color isolated from the insects Dactylopius coccus. Carmine is the pure color, whereas cochineal is the crude extract. Due to the fact that is derived from insects, it is not considered vegetarian which has caused public commotion about its use.
Carmine is a red food color. It is very soluble in water. It is one of the few natural and water-soluble colorants that resist degradation over time. It is the most light- and heat-stable and oxidation-resistant of all the natural colorants and is even more stable than some synthetic food colors.
E120(ii) = Cochineal extract
In the United States, it is approved as dye for foodstuffs. In January 2009, FDA passed a new regulation requiring carmine and cochineal to be listed by name on the label. This regulation is effective January 5, 2011.
In the EU, the use of carminic acid is being discouraged because of allergic reactions.
The acceptable daily intake (EU) is upto 5 mg/kg body weight.
Click here to find suppliers of natural colors.
To read more: wikipedia