Rapid liquid chromatographic method to distinguish wild salmon from aquacultured salmon fed synthetic astaxanthin

J AOAC Int. May-Jun 1997;80(3):622-32.


Analytical methods are needed to determine the presence of color additives in fish. We report a liquid chromatographic (LC) method developed to identify the synthetic form of the color additive astaxanthin in salmon, based on differences in the relative ratios of the configurational isomers of astaxanthin. The distributions of configurational isomers of astaxanthin in the flesh of wild Atlantic and wild Pacific salmon are similar, but significantly different from that in aquacultured salmon. Astaxanthin is extracted from the flesh of salmon, passed through a silica gel Sep-Pak cartridge, and analyzed directly by LC on a Pirkle covalent L-leucine column. No derivatization of the astaxanthin is required-an important advantage of our approach, which is a modification of our previously described method. This method can be used to distinguish between aquacultured and wild salmon. The method has general applicability and can also be used to identify astaxanthins derived from other sources such as Phaffia yeast and Haematococcus pluvialis algae.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animal Feed
  • Animals
  • Animals, Wild / metabolism
  • Aquaculture*
  • Chromatography, Liquid*
  • Color
  • Female
  • Food Additives / analysis*
  • Food Analysis
  • Male
  • Molecular Structure
  • Oncorhynchus keta / metabolism*
  • Salmon / metabolism*
  • Stereoisomerism
  • Time Factors
  • Xanthophylls
  • beta Carotene / analogs & derivatives*
  • beta Carotene / analysis


  • Food Additives
  • Xanthophylls
  • beta Carotene
  • astaxanthine