What is the ruling of carmine (e-120 )?
I will like to know the ruling of carmine (e-120 ). Is it halal ?
In the Name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful.
As-salāmu ‘alaykum wa-rahmatullāhi wa-barakātuh.
Carmine is a crimson red pigment derived from Cochineal, a “scale insect”, by crushing and boiling dried insects in water to extract the carminic acid and then treating the clear solution.
A popular natural food dye today, the deep red crimson colouring is also known by the following names: cochineal, carmine, colour (e120), carminic acid, and colour index (ci 75470) natural red 4 and crimson lake.
These are all names of this red food colouring, derived from the crushing of the females and their babies (nymphs) or cochineal scale beetle insect. They are killed by immersion in hot water, then dried by exposure to sunlight, steam or the heat of an oven and ground to a powder before going through a chemical process. It takes about 155 000 insects to make just one kilogram of cochineal. Cochineal is used to produce scarlet, orange and other red tints.
It is used in a variety of food products such as:
- Frozen processed meat and fish.
- Soft drinks, fruit drinks energy drinks and powdered drinks.
- Yoghurts, ice cream and dairy products.
- Candy, syrups, fillings and chewing gums.
- Canned fruits like cherries and jams.
- Dehydrated and canned soups.
- Sauces and seasonings.
- Cosmetics, hair and skin care products, lipsticks, face powders, rogues and blushes.
- Pharmaceuticals to colour pills, ointments, cough drops and vitamins.
The labels on products do not specifically mention insects and resort to couching this in a more palatable term such as ‘natural colouring’.
According to majority of the Shari’ah scholars, the consumption of insects is not permitted and falls under the purview of the Quranic verse, ‘…He (Allah Ta’ala) permits pure substances for them and forbids filthy substances unto them.’ (Surah7 verse 157.)
Therefore it is impermissible to consume any products containing carmine. Also in cosmetic products e.g. lipstick, where there is a strong possibility of intake, its usage will not be permissible.
The external use of products containing carmine is permissible, e.g. shampoos etc.
And Allah Ta’āla Knows Best
Mufti Arshad Ali
Darul Iftaa, Jaamia Madinatul Uloom (Trinidad)
 South African National Halaal Authority www.sanha.co.za