Carmine gave no evidence of carcinogenic potential in a long-term feeding study in rats, and cochineal was similarly inactive in mice. Chromosomal damage was produced in hamster cells exposed to high concentrations of cochineal in culture. However, negative results have generally been obtained in a range of mammalian genotoxicity screening assays with cochineal, carmine or carminic acid in studies involving oral administration to rodents or treatment in culture. Cochineal, carmine and carminic acid have given evidence of mutagenic potential in Ames bacterial tests.

There were no convincing signs of toxicity in reproduction studies involving repeated oral administration of carmine to rats or of cochineal to mice. Single injections of sodium carmine during pregnancy produced embryotoxicity and some indication of a weak teratogenic potential in mice. Rodent studies involving repeated oral administration of carmine or cochineal failed to identify conclusively any specific target organs. The acute oral toxicity of carminic acid in mice was found to be low.

In man, carmine has only rarely induced skin sensitization, but there are a number of reports of allergic reactions (dermal and/or respiratory) following its consumption. Both carmine and cochineal, and possibly carminic acid, have induced occupational asthma as well as other effects on respiratory function. Repeated application of a dilute solution of carmine produced no skin irritation in rabbits and only slight tissue changes in guinea-pigs.

Date of Publication: 1999

Number of Pages: 10

CAS Number*: 1343-78-8




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