Annatto extract is derived from the outer layer of the seeds of the achiote tree, which is native to Central and South America. It is a natural dye that can range in color from bright yellow to deep orange and is quite intense. The color of annatto extract is due to carotenoid pigments, mainly bixin and norbixin, which is present in the reddish wax-like coating of the seeds. It is used both as a colouring and flavouring agent in food products. It was first used in the 16th century in Latin America and slowly spread to the Caribbean, the Philippines, and other countries by Spanish and Portuguese explorers.
Annatto extract may cause digestive distress on consumption and trigger IBS symptoms like abdominal pain, cramping, bloating, gas, diarrhoea. They may also cause allergies in some people resulting in itchiness, swelling, hives, low blood pressure and stomach pain.(2)
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