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Several E numbers: food colourings
Possible application of gene technology Labelling
May be produced with the aid of GM micro-organisms no



"Carotenoids" is a collective term used to describe a large group of naturally-occurring pigments that primarily are found in plants. They are classified as "secondary plant substances".


A variety of carotenoids are approved as food colourings. Since carotenoids are soluble in fats, they are primarily used in fat-rich products. Examples of carotene colourings include:

  • carotene (E 160a, beta-carotene), annatto or bixin (E 160b), paprika extract, also known as capsanthin (E 160c) or lycopene (E 160d).
  • E 160e and E 160f are chemically modified carotenoids.

Similarly to other "secondary plant substances", a constitutional effect has been attributed to carotenoids: as "antioxidants", they intercept aggressive oxygen radicals and primarily are thought to prevent degenerative diseases and some forms of cancer. Carotenoids therefore also are used in ACE products or ACE drinks that have been fortified with the vitamins A, C and E. The best-known individual member of the group of carotenoids is beta-carotene (pro-vitamin A) that is transformed into vitamin A in the body.

Gene technology

Classically, carotenoids are extracted from plants, such as annatto from the seeds of the annatto or Orleans schrub, capsanthin from paprika, lycopene from tomatoes and carotene from carrots.
Carotenoids and primarily beta-catotene also are won from the salt-water alga Dunaliella salina. The alga is grown in the large salt mines of South Australia and naturally produces large quantities of the pigment.

  • For some carotenoids, such as annatto or beta-carotene, bio-technical procedures now are available in which genetically modified micro-organisms are used. Exact information with regard to the commercial usage of this method is unavailable.
  • In the future, the raw materials used in the manufacture of carotenoids may stem from genetically modified plants (such as tomatoes and carrots).

Labelling: Additives from the group of carotenoids fundamentally are subject to labelling, provided that the compound in question

  • have been won from genetically modified plants (for example, tomatoes).

Additives that have been produced with the aid of genetically modified organisms in closed systems are not subject to labelling, provided that the additive has been purified and contains no micro-organisms.

Even in the case in which the micro-organisms used in the production of an additive have received growth substance (i.e., substrate) from genetically modified plants, the additive remains not subject to labelling.


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