Astaxanthin hails from the family of carotenoids, a group of fat-soluble pigments originating from plants. Despite its botanical roots, astaxanthin is most commonly known in nature for presenting its pink-to-red hues in sea animals including fish (salmon) and crustaceans (e.g., shrimp, crab, lobster and krill).
Early commercial use of astaxanthin was as a colorant for human food and animal feed. In the 1980s, Hoffman La Roche petitioned for and won approval from FDA for use of astaxanthin as a pigment in salmon feed. However, FDA has never approved astaxanthin for use as a colorant in human food, although several specific brands of astaxanthin ingredients are GRAS (generally recognized as safe) for use in food for dietary reasons. Several brands have also submitted new dietary ingredient (NDI) notifications to FDA for use in dietary supplements and received no objection from the agency. However, in its response letter to one NDI filing, FDA advised the company needed to continue to avoid designating or implying astaxanthin is used as a colorant, as it would then be subject to regulatory scrutiny and possible action.
In Europe, regulatory authorities consider astaxanthin a food dye, and some brands have gained novel food ingredient (NFI) approval for use in certain foods and beverages at specific daily consumption levels.
Among its botanical responsibilities is protecting the host organism from photo-oxidative stress. This action is the focus of its production and use as a dietary ingredient for humans.
To further explore this beneficial carotenoid, read the full article, “The Science and Technology of Astaxanthin," in INSIDER’s latest Digital Pulse.