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Cochineal, E120, carmine... The little red food colouring bug and allergies.

After much research when we found our own child was allergic to red food colouring.

It was a natural red food colouring that is made from the crushed up carcass of the cochineal beetle.




For many months my daughter came home from daycare itchy and vomiting, she had fevers randomly and would break out in full body hives. She stopped eating at 2 years old and sometimes would just live on formula for weeks at a time.

then finally we figured out my daughters allergy after she was playing with some playdoh and she became violently sick. It happened again after painting with red paint, and sadly again after I kissed her wearing pink lipstick.

It was awesome to finally figure it out! but we had to have an entire overhaul of everything in the house.

So where can you find this colouring? Playdoh, Crayola products and many other popular kids crayons, paints, bath colourings, bath crayons, chalk and kids lip glosses contain the colourings and for the most part it isn’t too much of a problem if your child isn’t sensitive to them. But if they are it can be a long process of elimination if you are trying to find the route of the problem to their eczema, behavioral issues, vomiting, itchy skin or hives.

We had to throw out food, all of my lipsticks, eye-shadow and lip glosses that contained the beetle. I was amazed at how many things it was in!

During researching this beetle and colouring, I also discovered that not only was the food colouring causing reactions like hives and vomiting, there was also reactions that included, asthma, eczema and hyperactivity (something that I had as a kid).

Even as an adult I am still sensitive and even had an ex-boyfriend point out my “crazy eye” hyper-stimulated crazed outbursts after eating colourings that I shouldn’t have been eating (I seem to be sensitive to yellow (E110) and red (120).

The tricky, and annoying thing is that the same colouring can have different names. The same product, for example Fanta (sorry for singling you out Fanta, but you turn me into an uncontrollable devil woman whose eyes turn to souless black saucers!)

Fanta can be labelled differently and contain different combinations of colourings in different countries… For example, in the USA Fanta is dyed with Red 40 and Yellow 6, In New Zealand it is dyed with 110 (or E110)… also called Sunset Yellow FCF, also called Orange Yellow S or C.I. 15985…. Also known as YELLOW 6! Which is derived from petroleum.

Confused? A little? Do you know what also ironically creates confusion? Some food colourings…. As they may cause ADHD-like behaviour!

It’s also hard, because who has the time and energy to research every single thing on the back of a packet then google away for the next 4 hours trying to figure out what is in it. And it’s not just a matter of staying away from every E number because EVERYTHING has an E number, even beetroot (E162) and carrots (E160).

The other problem is that not all products are forthcoming with their ingredients (legally you don’t have to disclose everything if it’s not for consumption).

Red food colouring seems to have the most adverse reactions in people, specifically E120 and it can have the name Carmine/s, cochineal extract, CI 75470, crimson lake, Cochineal beetle, Carminic acid, or natural red 4. It comes from dried cochineal bugs and has been used in food for the last 500 years but only recently has it been linked it to anaphylactic shock.

Now I am actually of the thought that maybe as humans we should be consuming more bugs, full of protein and healthy fats, save world hunger, save the planet ect! There was even a drunken night when my husband and his friend Mark wanted to start up a company called KFB (Kentucky fried bugs)!

…But not these cochineal bugs… they do not seem to be being well received by children.

As more and more research is undertaken we have more information about what is in the food we give our families, what we are putting on our children’s skin, what preservatives and chemicals are all around our kids and I am determined to try and keep them from harm.

And this stupid bug causes harm to many!

I wish it was labeled as the same thing each time!

I wish we didn't have to use this crushed up bug and petrolleum based colourings in friggin EVERYTHING!


Let me know your thoughts.

Are you, or your kids sensitive to this bug?


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