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Caramel coloring

  Caramel colouring is caramel used as a food colouring; it is made by controlled heating of sugar, generally in the presence of acids or alkalis and possibly other compounds, a process called caramelization. Unlike caramel candy, it tends towards maximum oxidation of the sugar to produce a caramel concentrate that is unpalatable in its raw liquid form. Its colour ranges from dark brown to black.

There are four types of caramel, differing in their method of manufacture and application, each with its own E number:


  • Plain caramel, caustic caramel, or spirit caramel (Class I): E150a, contains sugar and sometimes acids, alkalis, and salts other than ammonium and sulphite compounds.
  • Caustic sulphite caramel (Class II): E150b, may contain sulphite compounds.
  • Ammonia caramel, baker's caramel, confectioner's caramel, or beer caramel (Class III): E150c, may contain ammonium compounds; used in beer, synthetic soy sauce, and confectionery.
  • Sulphite ammonia caramel, acid-proof caramel, or soft-drink caramel (Class IV): E150d, may also contain both ammonium and sulphite compounds; used in acid environments such as soft drinks.


Caramel colouring is the most widely-used food colouring, and is found in almost every kind of industrially produced food, including: beer, brown bread, buns, chocolate, biscuits, brandy, chocolate flavoured flour-based confectionery, coatings, decorations, fillings and toppings, crisps, dessert mixes, doughnuts, fish and shellfish spreads, frozen desserts, glucose tablets, cough drops, gravy browning, ice cream, jams, milk desserts, pancakes, pickles, sauces and dressings, soft drinks (particularly cola drinks), stouts, sweets, vinegar, whisky, and wines.


Caramel colouring can be produced from any sugar, but most commonly it is made from a high-dextrose starch hydrolysate or corn syrup. Various acids are generally added to break the chemical bonds in the sugars.


The colour of a caramel colouring can be specified using the Linner Hue Index for hue and tinctorial strength for the depth of colour.

Physical properties

Caramel colour is a colloid. It functions as an emulsifier in soft drinks.


The International Programme on Chemical Safety (IPCS) has concluded that commercially-produced caramel has the same toxicological properties as caramel produced by cooking or heating sucrose, except for those prepared using ammonium (Class III and IV).

Despite widespread claims that caramel is toxic or carcinogenic, the IPCS has found no evidence of carcinogenicity or mutagenicity in its extensive studies.

The IPCS has set the Acceptable Daily Intake (ADI) of Class I and II caramel colourings as "not limited"; that of Class III as 0-200 mg/kg body weight; and that of Class IV as 0-200 mg/kg.

The United States Food and Drug Administration classifies caramel colouring as generally recognized as safe.[1]


  • European Commission Directive 95/45/EC (26 July 1995) on food colour purity
  • Food Additives World, a manufacturor of food colours and flavorings[2]
  • International Programme on Chemical Safety INCHEM Database [3]
  • U.S. Food and Drug Administration definition of Caramel, Code of Federal Regulations 21 CFR 73.85
  • Caramel colour is an additive mainly used in the food industry to add or intensify brown colours, [4]
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Caramel_coloring". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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