1. J. C. Bauernfeind, Carotenoids as Colorants and Vitamin A Precursors, Academic Press, New York, 1981.

2. F. J. Francis, Handbook of Food Colorants, Eagen Press. St. Paul, Minn., 1999.

3. D. M. Marmion, Handbook of US Colorants, John Wiley & Sons, New York, 1991.

4. G. L. Alonzo et al., "Color Analysis of Saffron," Proc. 2nd Int. Symp. on Natural Colorants, Puerto de Acapulco, Mexico, January 23-26, 1996.

5. J. Verghese, "Focus on Xanthophylls from Tagetes erecta, L.— The Giant Natural Colour Complex," Proc. 2nd International Symposium on Natural Colorants, Puerto de Acapulco, Mexico, January 23-26, 1996.

6. F. J. Francis, "Carotenoids as Colorants," World of Ingredients, 34-38 (1995).

7. G. C. Hinostoza et al., "Pigmentation of Rainbow Trout Oncor-hynchus mykiss by Astaxanthin from Red Crab Pleuroncodes planipes in Comparison with Synthetic Astaxanthin and Phaffia rhodozyma Yeast," Proc. 2nd Int. Symp. on Natural Colorants, Puerto de Acapulco, Mexico, January 23-26,1996.

8. F. J. Francis, Handbook of Food Colorant Patents, Food and Nutrition Press, Westport, Conn., 1986.

See also Carotenoid pigments.


Carthamin (CI Natural Red 26; CI 75140) is a very old colorant. Its use as a textile colorant dates back to antiquity under a variety of names such as Spanish saffron, African saffron, American saffron, thistle saffron, false saffron, bastard saffron, Dyer's saffron, and so on. More modern names are carthemone, carthamic acid, and safflor red. Carthamin is a yellow to red preparation from saf-flower flowers, Carthemus tinctorius, of the family Com-positae, which is cultivated extensively in Europe and America.

Carthamin is classified biochemically as a chalcone in the yellow flavonoid group of pigments. The flavonoids are a very large group of plant pigments with more than 4000 Compounds, but only carthamin has been suggested as a colorant. Carthamin contains three chalcones: the red carthamin, safflor Yellow A, and safflor Yellow B (Fig. 1). Fresh yellow flower petals contain precarthamin, which oxidizes to form the red carthamin. Carthamin, under acid conditions, equilibrates to two isomers: red carthamin and yellow isocarthamin (1). The earlier patents on carthamin involved simple aqueous extraction of the petals or crushing the petals prior to extraction to allow for oxidation (2). The three main pigments can be purified by passage through a styrene resin bed. Purification and stabilization can be greatly enhanced by absorption of the pigments on cellulose powder. Apparently cellulose has a great affinity for carthamin and this is known as the "Saito effect." "The effect is so strong that the carthamin may be retained for more than a thousand years without appreciable change to the coloration" (3). No storage data were provided to substantiate this claim. The cellulose absorption method was adapted to large-scale production using a methanolic extract and a cellulose column in acid media. Another method using a cellulose derivative dieth-ylaminoethylcellulose yielded pure precarthamin, carthamin, safflor Yellow A and safflor Yellow B. Tissue culture approaches have been successful in producing the safflower pigments as well as some novel closely related pigments (4,5).

Carthamin has been suggested as a colorant for pineapple juice, yogurt, butter, liqueurs, confectionery and so on. The yellow to red range of colors gives it some flexibility. Currently it is not approved for use in foods in the United States.

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