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General Kashrus Policies

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Carmine (a.k.a. crimson lake, natural red #4, or E120) is a dye made by drying and then crushing the cochineal insect. This dye can be used to create long-lasting red, purple or orange colors in foods. Insects are not kosher, but some have argued that this status disappears when the insect is dried out. However, mainstream kosher agencies in the United States do not accept this rationale and consider carmine to be forbidden (assur mid'oraisah).

Since carmine provides color to the food or beverage it is added to (chazusah), it cannot be batel b'shishim, even when there is a relatively small amount of carmine in the food. However, at typical usage levels, carmine does not affect the taste of the food it is added to. Therefore, if the only non-kosher ingredient in a food is carmine, the equipment used to process that food does not have to be kashered before it is used for kosher food.