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Photo courtesy Flickr user Scoutj.

This article just drew my attention to the interesting story behind carmine, which is a pigment precipitated from carminic acid (shown below) extracted from the bodies of Dactylopius coccus, the so-called “cochineal” insect, of which the acid comprises up to 24% of dry body weight. The cochineal is a parasite of cacti of the genus opuntia, from which it has been harvested in South America since pre-Columbian times. It is carmine that produced the “red” of the famous British “red coats,” and today carmine is still produced in great quantity for use in fabric, cosmetics, and as a natural food coloring. (Vegans beware!) [via Neatorama]

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