Organic Rulings Affect Use of Annatto and Beta-Carotene Colors

The National Organic Standards Board is prohibiting nonorganic annatto extract, while welcoming algae as a new source of beta-carotene extract.

The National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) has published a few rulings that will amend its National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances, a list that dictates which non-organic substances can be used in the production and handling of organic-certified products. Two of the rulings will influence the use of popular coloring agents: nonorganic annatto extract and nonorganic beta-carotene extract.

Nonorganic beta-carotene extract is currently permitted as a yellow-to-orange coloring agent from carrots. To extract beta-carotene from carrots, without synthetic solvents, has proved difficult. But an NOSB ruling now adds algae as an alternative option for beta-carotene coloring. The rule is effective May 29, 2013.

Annatto extract imparts a yellow-orange color to various foods and beverages. Because annatto extract now appears commercially available in organic form-and in sufficient quantities-the NOSB is prohibiting the use of nonorganic annatto extract for coloring of organic products. Manufacturers will have until November 3, 2014 to make their reformulation and label changes.