Canthaxanthin—Colorant, or Antioxidant?

Canthaxanthin is both a colorant (pigment) and an antioxidant, which gives it unique market value and applications among the carotenoids.  As we learned in the June 2023 issue of Digest, canthaxanthin is one of the oxygen-containing (xanthophyll) carotenoids, featuring a deep orange/red color.  Canthaxanthin is found in nature in mushrooms, crustaceans, fish, egg yolks, and (unapproved use in the US!) tanning pills!  Brine shrimp, accumulate canthaxanthin pigment, imparts the famous pink color to salt harvested from Lake Burlinskoye in Siberia, popularized by Peter the Great.  Those same brine shrimp (Artemia salina) are available via mail-order in powder form as the Amazing Live Sea-Monkeys®—“just ADD WATER—that’s ALL!” to rehydrate and generate some “Instant Pets.”

The biological role of canthaxanthin is mixed among pigmentation, light capture, and antioxidant functions.  As an antioxidant, canthaxanthin activates nuclear factor erythroid 2 (Nrf2), which is a “master regulator” of cell survival.  Canthaxanthin is unique in that it has higher antioxidant and free radical scavenging properties than most carotenoids.

Commercial uses of Canthaxanthin

Canthaxanthin has widespread commercial use in color and quality of animal products, and health status in both humans and animals due to its efficacy as an antioxidant.  Major categories of usage in animal nutrition are listed in table 1 below.

Regulatory approvals for Canthaxanthin in Feeds and Foods in North America


Approval Canada

Approval US*


Carophyll® Red

  •  - Poultry

30 ppm

4.41 ppm broilers, 6 ppm breeders

Canada: both layers and broiler skin.

US: colorant in broilers, GRAS in breeders

  •  - Salmonids

50 ppm

80 ppm

  •  - Foods


Up to 30 mg/lb 

For coloring solid or liquid foods

*Canthaxanthin use in the US is regulated as a color additive, exempt from certification, except for the breeder hen application, which is self-GRAS.

Carophyll® Red 10% is a canthaxanthin source formulated by dsm-firmenich as a beadlet, using lignosulfonate as the matrix.  Unlike competitive products formulated with gelatin or modified starch matrices, and unlike various plant extracts and biomass products, Carophyll® forms have advantages in handling, mixability, stability, and bioavailability.  Advantages of a purified, uniform product include predictable yolk color uniformity, backed by YolkFanTM technology.

Published on

17 July 2023


  • Poultry
  • Aquaculture
  • Carotenoids


You are being redirected.

We detected that you are visitng this page from United States. Therefore we are redirecting you to the localized version.