Since I am a major health nut, I always read labels before I buy food. I often see the ingredient Annatto listed on packages, so what is it?
It's a natural food coloring made from the ground up seed pods of - surprise, surprise - the annatto tree, which grows in Central and South America. It is also called the Achiote tree. After this tree flowers, it produces hairy pods that turn blackish-brown when ripe.
Annatto adds color to cheese, butter, margarine, rice, smoked fish, and microwave popcorn. It is often used as a substitute for the expensive herb saffron.
It also has antioxidants. I guess that doesn't really matter since you only ingest a small amount, but hey, it's better than nothing.
Well now I feel much better knowing Annatto really is an all natural food coloring. Much better than Red 40.