E-160b is the code given to bixin used as a coloring additive in the food industry. This code is based on the European Union’s food codes, which correspond to isolated natural colorings, such as Isobixin and Norbixin.
Besides, Bixin is a coloring of plant origin that is extracted from Annatto Bixa Orellana tropical tree’s seed husks, which is mainly grown in countries of the American continent such as Costa Rica, Mexico (where it is called Acotillo), Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela and in certain regions of Peru such as the Andean region.
While Annatto refers to the raw extract, Bixin is the fat-soluble coloring part, and Norbixin is the water-soluble part. All of them have coloring capacity, which since being extracted from plants acquires the name of natural coloring.
Bixin can be extracted directly from Bixa Orellana seeds, either by washing them with oils or solvents such as chloroform and acetone, or by being added an aqueous solution of Potassium Hydroxide to produce Norbixin, a water-soluble substance. Bixin can be used in different industries; however, E-160b is used only in food products.
E-160b has a yellow-red tone leaning towards a brown shade similar to a peach. It can be used in a wide variety of foods such as cheese (especially in Cheddar and Mimolette), sausages, rice, breakfast cereals, butters and margarines, patisserie (wafers) as well as snacks.
The World Health Organization (WHO) recognizes the null toxicity of Bixin for both human consumption and skin application. In fact, this is a very suitable substance for coloring all kinds of foods and drinks that have a yellow color.