SAFFRON - The use of saffron as a yellow colorant dates back to before the 23rd century B.C. It is made by collecting the stigmas of the flower of the crocus bulb, Crocus sativin. Flowers are grown worldwide, with the majority coming from Iran. Saffron from this area is of high quality as the individual stigmas are reselected before processing. The high hand labor involved, coupled with the amount of flowers to be picked (about 15,000 are required to produce 1 kg of colorant), contribute to its cost. Political events have caused artificial shortages, creating availability problems and significant cost increases. These problems limit saffron usage. Saffron colorant (crocin and crocetin) is chemically similar to annatto and zeozanthan. The carotenoid has a simple sugar linked to the basic chain, giving it water solubility and possibly improved light stability compared to turmeric. Saffron powders contain beta-carotene, zeozanthan and other carotenoids, the amount of which varies by growing region and handling procedures.