Annatto

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Infobox on Annatto
Example of Annatto
Annatto.jpg
Facts
Origin From tropical and subtropical regions of most continents.
Stowage factor (in m3/t) -
Angle of repose -
Humidity / moisture -
Oil content -
Ventilation Cool, dry stowage
Risk factors
  • Wet damage
  • Weight loss
  • Odour
  • Overheating

Description

A reddish-yellow pulp enclosing the seed of the Arnotto tree.

Annatto, sometimes called roucou or achiote, is derived from the seeds of the achiote trees of tropical and subtropical regions around the world. The seeds are sourced to produce a carotenoid-based yellow to orange food coloring and flavor. Its scent is described as "slightly peppery with a hint of nutmeg" and flavor as "slightly nutty, sweet and peppery".

Annatto is believed to originate from Brazil where it is known as urucum. It was probably not initially used as a food additive, but for other reasons, such as body painting, treatment for heartburn and stomach distress, sunscreen, repelling insects, and to ward off evil. It has long been used by indigenous Caribbean and South American cultures where both fruit and tree are popularly called achiote or bija. The ancient Aztecs called it achiotl, and it was used for Mexican manuscript painting in the sixteenth century.

In India, annatto is known as "sindoor" and is considered auspicious for married women. Applying annatto to the forehead next to the hairline indicates that a woman is married. In the Philippines, it is called atsuete and is used as food coloring in traditional dishes.

Using annatto for color has been a traditional characteristic of Gloucester cheese since the 16th century when producers of inferior cheese used a coloring agent to replicate the orange hue achieved by the best cheesemakers. During the summer months the high levels of carotene in the grass would have given the milk an orangey color which was carried through into the cheese. This orange hue was regarded as an indicator of the best cheese and that is why the custom of adding annatto spread to other parts of the UK with Cheshire and Red Leicester cheese as well as colored cheddar made in Scotland all using this natural dye.

Many Latin American cuisines traditionally use annatto in recipes of Spanish origin that originally call for saffron; for example, in arroz con pollo, to give the rice a yellow color. In Venezuela, annatto (called locally onoto) is used in the preparation of hallacas, perico, and other traditional dishes. In Brazil, both annatto (the product) and the tree (Bixa orellana L.) are called urucum, and the product itself may also be called colorau.

In the European Union, annatto has the E number E160b. In the United States, annatto extract is listed as a color additive "exempt from certification" and is informally considered to be a natural coloring. Foods colored with annatto may declare the coloring in the statement of ingredients as "colored with annatto” or "annatto color."

The fat soluble color in the crude extract is called bixin, which can then be saponified into water soluble norbixin. Annatto seed contains 4.5-5.5% pigments, which consists of 70-80% bixin. The yellow to orange color is produced by the chemical compounds bixin and norbixin, which are classified as carotenoids. However, 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.

Annatto is a rich source of tocotrienols, antioxidants that are similar in structure and function to vitamin E. The tocotrienols from annatto and other sources like palm oil and rice bran are the subject of current nutritional and medical research since these compounds are thought to prevent cancer due to their anti-angiogenic effect.

Application

In commercial processing, annatto coloring is extracted from the reddish pericarp which surrounds the seed of the achiote (Bixa orellana L.). Historically, it has been used as coloring in many cheeses (e.g., Cheddar, Gloucester, Red Leicester), cheese products (e.g. American cheese, Velveeta), and dairy spreads (e.g. butter, margarine). Annatto can also be used to color a number of non-dairy foods such as rice, custard powder, baked goods, seasonings, processed potatoes, snack foods, breakfast cereals and smoked fish. It has been linked to cases of food-related allergies.

Annatto is commonly used in Latin American and Caribbean cuisines as both a coloring and flavoring agent. Central and South American natives use the seeds to make body paint and lipstick. For this reason, the achiote is sometimes called the "lipstick-tree". Achiote originated in South America and has spread in popularity to many parts of Asia. It is also grown in other tropical or subtropical regions of the world, including Central America, Africa and Asia. The heart-shaped fruit are brown or reddish brown at maturity, and are covered with short, stiff hairs. When fully mature, the fruit splits open, exposing the numerous dark red seeds. The fruit itself is not edible, however the orange-red pulp that covers the seed is used to produce a yellow to orange food coloring. Achiote dye is prepared by grinding seeds or simmering the seeds in water or oil.

Shipment / Storage

Used as a colouring agent for butter and as a textile dyestuff. Liable to severe deterioration through wetting. Fresh and salt water affect the seeds adversely. Depending on the degree of contact, seeds will lose their red appearance, becoming blackish. Seeds which are so damaged should be separated as soon as possible from sound seeds and both sound and damaged well dried. Seeds not too badly damaged may be disposed of in the form of powder in order to fetch a better price.

If stowed in a hot place the seeds may suffer some loss in weight, but they do not deteriorate. Over-heating results in the outer covering being easily pulverside. Has a strong odour and is liable to give taint, therefore should be stowed away from foodstuffs.

Strong odour; keep away from foodstuffs and goods liable to taint. Cool dry stowage.

Risk factors

  • Wet damage
  • Weight loss
  • Odour
  • Overheating