What is Bixin?

Bixin is an apocarotenoid used as a coloring additive in food industry. It has the code E-160b, according to European Union’s food codes, which correspond to isolated natural colorings, such as isobixin and Norbixin. Annatto refers to the raw extract, while bixin is the fat-soluble coloring part, and norbixin is the water-soluble part. All of them with coloring power, considered, as mentioned earlier, natural colorings.

Bixin can be extracted directly from Bixa Orellana seeds, either washing them with oils or solvents such as chloroform and acetone, or adding an aqueous solution of potassium hydroxide to produce norbixin, a water-soluble substance.

These natural colorings of plant origin are suitable to improve the color of foods. Its coloring power ranges from red to brown, depending on the type of solvent used for its extraction.

The World Health Organization (WHO) recognizes the null toxicity of bixin for both human consumption and application to the skin. In fact, it is a very suitable substance for coloring all kinds of foods and drinks that have a yellow color.

Bixin has several commercial presentations, each with different concentrations, such as fat-soluble coloring, coloring in aqueous solution or paste coloring.

At the international level, there is a wide demand for Annatto in the food industry, due to its high coloring power. This molecule is also used in the ceramics industry for the production of varnishes, paints and lacquers. In addition, it is used to dye silk and cotton fabrics. Also, due to its antioxidant properties, it is currently used in the manufacture of cosmetics and body care products such as creams, lotions, shampoos.

Regarding achiote plant, it has great potential in the pharmaceutical industry for having tissues with very diverse biological properties as antifungal, antibacterial, antiprotozoal, anti-inflammatory, antidiabetic and anticarcinogenic, among others.

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