Question: What is the origin of additive E120? What is the ruling in Islam about it and the products produced with it?
E120; cochineal, carmine, carminic acid; is a coloring pigment, that is obtained from the carcasses, eggs and shells of a female insect, called ‘dactylopius coccus costa’ or with its other name ‘coccus cacti’, who lives on the spiny cactus plant ‘opintia ficus’ that grows in countries like Mexico, Canary islands, Bolivia, Chili and Peru.
The insect, eggs and shells are first boiled, then processed chemically, then dried and grinded. From 140.000 insects, 1kg of pigment is obtained.
There is no verse of Qur’an or hadith that forbids consuming the insect called Cochineal (Dactylopius coccus). Insects like these are lawful to be eaten in the sect Maliki and unlawful in Hanafi, Shafii and Hanbali sects. Their evidence is that, people dislike creatures like these. Disliking something changes from person to person and from society to society. It has to be considered as clean by religious criteria, since it lives on a clean plant.
Milkab b. Telibb narrates from his father:
“I have made friendship with the Messenger of Allah, participated in his talks and did not hear that insects were forbidden.” (Abu Dawood, Et’ime, 30)
Hattabi who comments on this hadith says:
‘We understand from this narration that eating insects and considering it normal was from the traditions of Prophet Muhammad’s (p.b.u.h.) era. Yet, he knew these traditions well and did not forbid them from eating these insects. (See: Hattabi, Mealimu’s-Sunan, commentary on the hadith in Abu Dawood Et’ime 30)