INS No. 161g
EINECS No. 208-187-2
CAS No. 514-78-3
CI Food Orange 8
CI No. 40850

Physical Description

Canthaxanthin was first extracted from an edible mushroom, Cantharellus cinnabarinus, in 1950. It has since been identified in sea trout, algae, daphnia, salmon, brine shrimp, and several species of flamingo. In addition to these natural sources, canthaxanthin can be synthetically produced from acetone. It is commercially available as a dry powder and a water-dispersible, dry beadlet composed of 10% colorant, gelatin, vegetable oil, sugar, starch, antioxidants, and preservatives.

Common Uses

Canthaxanthin is a reddish-orange color rarely used directly for coloring food such as tomato products, fruit drinks, sausage products and baked goods, but primarily used to color the meat of poultry, salmon, and trout and the yolks of eggs indirectly through animal feeds, as well as pharmaceuticals.

Specifications for Food Use

EU defined in Commission Regulation (EU) No 23/2012

Codex GSFA Provisions

Canthaxanthin (INS No 161g) is added to foods and beverages at concentrations up to a maximum permitted level (MPL) in more than 30 food categories as established by the Codex Alimentarius Commission and published in the General Standard of Food Additives (GSFA).

Regulatory Approval

USA: Canthaxanthin is a color additive exemption from certification and permanently listed for coloring foods generally subject to the the following restriction: ≤ 30 mg/lb of solid or semisolid food or per pint of liquid food. It may be safely used in broiler chicken feed (≤ 4.41 mg per kg of complete feed) and in the feed of salmonid fish (≤80 mg per kg of finished feed) subject to specific restrictions (21 CFR 73.75) and at for drug use at levels consistent with GMP for ingested drugs only (21 CFR 73.1075)

EU: 0-0.3 mg/kg ADI (EFSA, 2010) Canthaxanthin is not authorized in the food categories listed in Part D and E but is used in medicinal products in accordance with Directive 2009/35/EC.

JECFA: 0-0.03 mg/kg ADI (44th report, 1995)

Safety Reviews

JECFA (1995). Evaluation of certain food additives and contaminants. WHO Technical Report Series. No. 859. Forty-forth meeting of the Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives. Available online

EFSA Panel on Food Additives and Nutrient Sources added to Food (ANS); Scientific Opinion on the reevaluation of canthaxanthin (E 161 g) as a food additive. EFSA Journal 2010; 8(10):1852 [42 pp.]. Available online