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Any of several organic compounds widely distributed in plants and animals. They are pigments that give orange, yellow, or sometimes red colours to, for example, dandelions, apricots, carrots, sweet potatoes, butter, egg yolks, canary feathers, and lobster shells. Carotenes are converted in the body into vitamin A, but, unlike the vitamin, they are not toxic even at high doses. Carotene has an antioxidant effect and is therefore used in pharmaceuticals and as a food and feed additive, as well as to colour margarine and butter.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on carotene, visit Britannica.com.