The safety of annatto extracts (E 160b) as a food additive

Annatto, cis-bixin, trans-bixin, cis-norbixin, trans-norbixin, trans-norbixin dipotassium salt, trans-norbixin disodium salt
First published in the EFSA Journal
24 August 2016
29 June 2016
Scientific Opinion


Following a request from the European Commission to EFSA, the EFSA Panel on Food Additives and Nutrient Sources added to Food (ANS) was asked to re-evaluate the safety of annatto extracts, bixin-based and norbixin-based, when used as a food additive and to evaluate the safety of aqueous-processed bixin (Annatto E); solvent-extracted bixin (Annatto B); alkali-processed norbixin, acid-precipitated (Annatto F); alkali-processed norbixin, not acid-precipitated (Annatto G) and solvent-extracted norbixin (Annatto C) with the view to replace the currently authorised annatto extracts (E 160b). Given: (a) that read-across among the five bixin- and norbixin-based annatto extracts was feasible; (b) the availability of adequate 90-day toxicity studies with Annatto B, C, E and F; (c) the absence of concern for mutagenicity, carcinogenicity, reproductive and developmental toxicity of Annatto B, C, F and G, whereas the mutagenicity of Annatto E is equivocal, the Panel concluded that the safety of the currently authorised solvent-extracted bixin and norbixin (E 160b(i)), alkali-extracted annatto (E 160b(ii)) and oil-extracted annatto (E 160b(iii)), with the specifications defined in Commission Regulation (EU) No 231/2012, could not be assessed due to the lack of data, both in terms of identification and toxicological studies; solvent-extracted bixin (Annatto B), solvent-extracted norbixin (Annatto C), alkali-processed, acid-precipitated norbixin (Annatto F) and alkali-processed, not acid-precipitated norbixin (Annatto G and its norbixin salts) should comply with the specifications as recommended by the Panel. The toxicological database is sufficient to derive an acceptable daily intake (ADI) of 6 mg bixin/kg body weight (bw) per day and an ADI of 0.3 mg norbixin/kg bw per day. Exposure estimates for bixin were below the ADI for all population groups and for all refined exposure scenarios, including for the extension of use. For norbixin, exceedance was observed for the extension of use at the 95th percentile for some population groups.

Panel members at the time of adoption

Fernando Aguilar, Riccardo Crebelli, Alessandro Di Domenico, Birgit Dusemund, Maria Jose Frutos, Pierre Galtier, David Gott, Ursula Gundert-Remy, Claude Lambré, Jean-Charles Leblanc, Oliver Lindtner, Peter Moldeus, Alicja Mortensen, Pasquale Mosesso, Dominique Parent-Massin, Agneta Oskarsson, Ivan Stankovic, Ine Waalkens-Berendsen, Rudolf Antonius Woutersen, Matthew Wright and Maged Younes
Panel on Food Additives and Nutrient Sources Added to Food
fip [at]
EFSA Journal 2016;14(8):4544
Question Number
On request from
European Commission