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The yellow to orange color is produced by the chemical compounds bixin and norbixin, which are classified as carotenoids. The fat soluble color in the crude extract is called bixin, which can then be saponified into water soluble norbixin. This dual solubility property of annatto is rare for carotenoids. The seeds contain 4.5-5.5% pigments, which consists of 70-80% bixin. Unlike beta-carotene, another well-known carotenoid, annatto based pigments are not vitamin A precursors. The more norbixin in an annatto color, the more yellow it is; a higher level of bixin gives it a more orange shade.
The Pericarp of the annatto Seeds is extracted by agitation in aqueous-alkali at a temperature not extending 70c. The Solution is filtered to remove the insoluble material. For refined product the pigment in alkaline aqueous Extract is precipitated by addition of hydrochloric acid. The precipitates are filtered, dried and washed with petroleum solvent to remove unwanted impurities and odours. the pigment is than mixed alkaline and dissolved water.
Last updated on : 06 February 2018