Carmine is a colored pigment extracted from the female insect
Coccus cacti or Dactylopius coccus, or their eggs.
The insects live on prickly pear cactus in Mexico. The Spanish
brought the dye to Europe after seeing
the Aztecs use it.
Because carmine comes from insects, some other color must be used
if a product is to be labeled kosher.
It takes over a million of the insects to make a pound of dye.
The insects are harvested when the females are about to lay
eggs, at which time they turn a bright red color. The shells
of the female insects are dried, then the color is dissolved
in a solvent, and all of the insect parts are filtered out.
Because of all of this labor intensive processing, carmine is
more expensive than
FD&C Red #40, but it has a deep magenta-red
color, and red 40 is more orange-red.