Food Coloring Derived from Cochineal Insect: OK?


13 October, 2023

May Allah bless and reward you abundantly for your efforts. My question is regarding the food coloring derived from the cochineal insect known as cochineal. The dried remains of this cochineal insect are used to dye food red. They feed of cacti plants in places such as Peru etc. Would this be permissible to eat?


In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful. 

All praise and thanks are due to Allah, and peace and blessings be upon His Messenger.

In this fatwa:

  • The basic principle is that all foods and drinks are permissible provided that they are not clearly prohibited in the Shari`ah and that they are not harmful or dirty.
  • It is not haram to consume the cochineal if it does not cause harm to the human.

Answering your question, Sheikh Kifah Mustapha, the Imam and Director of The Prayer Center of Orland Park and representative for Dar El Fatwa of Lebanon in the US, states:

I have to relate to certain basics in our understanding of Fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence) matters as a step prior to the answer:

The Islamic rule of law states that: the original ruling in matters is that; it is permissible as long as there is no text that states it is forbidden.

The Islamic rule of law states also that haram is in relation to filthiness; Allah Almighty says in the Qur’an, “…and prohibiting for them impure things…” (Al-A`raf 7:157)

The Islamic rule of law states also that: there shall be no harm caused (to yourself) and there shall be no harm inflicted (upon others) as the hadith of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) declares. (Imam Malik)

Based on this rule; scholars made analogy (qiyas) to prohibit certain food if proven to cause harm including insects.

For example, the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) gave permission to kill certain insects and animals and named them al-fawasiq, meaning those who go off the normal track of regular animals because of the assumed harm in them.

He (peace and blessings be upon him) mentioned snakes, scorpions, mice, rabid dogs and the black and grey crow. The permission to kill them meant it is haram to be consumed too.

The term (istihalah) or chemical transformation is known in Fiqh that when a matter is transformed from a filthy-based item into a pure one through such chemical transformation, the ruling changes too.

Now as for your question, we are talking about a bug to be consumed.

I see it is not haram to consume the cochineal if it does not cause harm to the human, for the following reasons;

  • It is not something mentioned in the Qur’an or Sunnah as haram.
  • It is not a filthy and harmful based insect like scorpions and snakes.
  • It is processed chemically that changes its status under the term of (istihalah).
  • Although school of Hanafiah, Shafi`yyah and Hanabilah prohibited insects in general with some exceptions, the school of Malikiyyah permitted in one narration all insects and in another except for harmful ones. (Al-Sharh Al-Kabeer 2/115)

Let me finish by saying that it is up to the person to choose to eat or not from that which he or she feels good about it or not.

In that, we recall the hadith of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) who did not eat a desert type of lizard called (addabb) and said when asked if it was haram, “No, but it is not found in the land of my people and I don’t feel like eating it.” (Hadith narrated in the Book of Al-Umm by Imam Ash-Shafi`i)

Almighty Allah knows best.

Editor’s note: This fatwa is from Ask the Scholar’s archive and was originally published at an earlier date.


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