Canthaxanthin in Food
There have been media reports concerning the safety of canthaxanthin in salmon.
What is Canthaxanthin
- Canthaxanthin is a type of carotenoid pigment with an orange-red colour.
- It occurs naturally in many foods such as mushrooms, crustaceans, fish and eggs. The pigment has also been produced by chemical synthesis.
Use of Canthaxanthin
- Canthaxanthin (INS161g) is primarily used as a feed additive for animals. It can lead to a more intensely-coloured egg yolk and flesh from poultry, and a more reddish colour for salmon.
- It can also be used as a colour additive in foods. Nevertheless, its use for such purpose is less common than as feeding stuffs for animals.
Safety of Canthaxanthin
- Some studies have shown that a high intake of canthaxanthin would lead to deposition of the pigments in the retina.
- The Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA) has evaluated the safety of canthaxanthin and allocated an Acceptable Daily Intake (ADI) of 0 - 0.03 mg/kg body weight in 1995. ADI is an estimate of the amount of a substance in food or drinking water, expressed on a body weight basis, that can be ingested daily over a lifetime without appreciable risk.
- JECFA considered that indirect exposure to canthaxanthin from its use as a feed colourant is the major source of intake, and concluded in its evaluation in 2000 that use of this feed additive would not result in long-term dietary intake that exceeded the current ADI.
- The International Agency of Research on Cancer (IARC) has not evaluated the carcinogenicity of canthaxanthin. Nevertheless, there was no evidence for its carcinogenicity in animal studies according to JECFA's evaluations.
- Canthaxanthin is a permitted colour additive in foods and animal feeds in many countries including the EU (European Union) countries, the US and Canada .
- The Scientific Committee on Food (SCF) of EU has assigned the same ADI of 0.03 mg/kg body weight in 1997.
- Furthermore, the EU has established maximum residue limits for canthaxanthin in food of animal origin based on the European Food Safety Authority’s adopted opinion e.g. 10 mg canthaxanthin/ kg muscle (wet tissue) in salmon and 5 mg canthaxanthin/ kg muscle (wet tissue) in trout etc.
- Under the Codex General Standard for Food Additives, canthaxanthin is permitted in fresh eggs (for decoration, stamping, marking or branding the product) with Good Manufacturing Practice.
Situation in Hong Kong
- In Hong Kong , canthaxanthin is a permitted colouring matter for food use under the Colouring Matter in Food Regulations (Cap 132H).
- As canthaxanthin is also permitted for use in animal feeds in various countries, the public may be exposed to canthaxanthin from a variety of food including salmon, poultry and poultry products.
Advice to the Public
- To take a balanced diet so as to avoid excessive exposure to food additives from a small range of food items.
- Usual consumption of foodstuffs is not likely leading to adverse health effects arising from exposure to canthaxanthin.
Risk Assessment Section
Centre for Food Safety