Carmine and Kirmiz

Kirmiz and Carmine are food colorings that are produced from insects after they have been thoroughly dried and crushed into a powder. The basis for permitting these food colorings is the same as for permitting gelatin produced from non-kosher raw materials; once the insects have been turned into nothing more than a dry, tasteless powder the Issur that was on them originally has been removed. Numerous authorities from a variety of locations and backgrounds have permitted these types of products for more than three centuries.

The first teshuva (to my knowledge) that permitted these products on the basis that the insects were dried into a tasteless powder comes from Rav Yaakov Culi, in Meam Loez, Parshas Teruma. He wrote that the insects were found in fruit and they would be gathered and dried out by the sun during the summer months. The red dye that came from the insects was used to color a variety of different things, even food. And he wrote:

ואין איסור בזה אע''פ שנעשה מתולעים כיון שמתייבשים ונעשים כמו עפר כפי שאמרנו, וכל שכן שאין אוכלים מהם, אלא משתמשים בהם לצבע שמקבלים מהם המים... ואם כן, כשמתייבשים ונעשים כמו עפר לא נשארת בהם שום לחלוחית והלך מהם האיסור שהיה בהם.

[And there is no prohibition in this even though it is made from insects, since they are dried and made like dirt as we have said. And furthermore, we don’t eat from them (the insects) rather, they are used to provide color by procuring liquid from them….and if so, when they are dried and made like dirt, there does not remain in them any moisture, and the Issur that was in them has left them]

Here is a list of additional seforim of which I am aware that from what is written in them we can see their authors permitted food coloring from dried insects. This may not be a complete list:

  1. Tiferes Tzvi, Yoreh Deah, #73

  2. Tuv Ayin (Chida), Siman 18, sec. 95 and Shiuray Bracha, Yoreh Deah, Siman 87

  3. Ginzay Chaim (Rav Chaim Falagi), Ma’areches Tav,

  4. Nechmad L’Mareh, Kilaim, daf 97a

  5. Ben Avraham, Siman 50, sec. 32

  6. Chacham B’Chachmaso, Klal 40, seif 9

  7. Shaaray Tzedek, Yoreh Deah, Siman 100

  8. Ikray Dinim, Melicha, Siman 9, #14

  9. Pischay Teshuva, Yoreh Deah, Siman 87, # 20, (citing Tiferes Tzvi) ***

  10. Darchay Teshuva, Siman 87, #133

  11. Kaf HaChaim, Siman 87, #87

  12. Kinyan Torah B’Halacha, chelek, 1, Siman 114, sec. 2

  13. Yabia Omer, vol. 5, Y.D. #11, sec. 8; vol. 7, Y.D. #7, sec. 5; and vol. 8, Y.D., #11 sec. 4

  14. Shevet HaLevi, chelek 8, #184

  15. Emek HaTeshuva, vol. 2, #68

  16. Shoel V’Nishal, chelek 4, Yoreh Deah, Siman 31

  17. Tefilla L’Moshe, chelek 5, Siman 21

  18. Otzros HaHalacha, Melicha, Basar B’Chalav, Ta’aruvos, Siman 87, seif, 10

  19. Shoel U’Meishiv (Kovetz), Chelek 8, Siman 10

  20. Tolo’as Shani, chelek 1, Perek 6, seif, 41

  21. Ohr HaHalacha, Kuntres Halachos, Siman 3

  22. Sh“ut Me‘ayn Omer, chelek 4, Shechitah U’Treifos, Siman 8

  23. Divray Barak, Yoreh Deah, #1

  24. Divray Benayahu, chelek 15, Siman 17

  25. Avnay Levi, Y.D., #1

  26. Vya’an HaCohen, chelek 2, Siman 4

  27. Tiferes HaTorah, article by Rabbi Mishael Asraf, p. 328

It is also a reasonable assumption that all the Poskim who permitted gelatin produced from pigskins, and other products produced from dried and flavorless non-kosher raw materials, would likewise permit food colorings derived from dried insects. (The concept of “Achshevay” does not present a problem with any of these products. Achshevay only becomes an issue when a substance is added for the pleasure and satisfaction it provides as a “food,” not if it is being added for some other, secondary benefit it provides. See Noda B’Yehuda, M.T., Y.D., #57; Kesav Sofer to Orach Chaim, Siman 111; and Achiezer, vol. 3, #33, sec. 5. As far as the issue of “Davar HaMaamid” the consensus of rabbinic opinion is that it is not a problem when a substance has become Nifsal Meachillas Kelev).

*** It is astounding that something considered kosher by one of the Nosei Ke’ilim of the Shulchan Aruch, who himself was citing an earlier authority who was not disputed, can today be flippantly referred to as “treif”!