150 Caramel

Posted 21 Oct 2023
150 Caramel

What is Caramel (E150), and where is it used?


Caramel (E150) is a non-synthetic food additive widely used in the food and beverage industry [1]. It is produced by controlled heating of carbohydrates, often sugar, in the presence of food-grade reactants. Caramel is primarily used to enhance the colour and flavour profile in a wide range of food applications, including soft drinks, confectionery, sauces, baked goods, and alcoholic beverages. 

Caramel colourings are divided into one of four types based on the approved food-grade substance that is mixed with [2]:

  • Class I (E150a) is a plain caramel

  • Class II (E150b) is a sulfite caramel

  • Class III (E150c) is an ammonia caramel

  • Class IV (E150d) is a sulfite ammonia caramel 

Purported Health Implications 

While Caramel (E150) is generally considered safe for consumption within established limits, it is essential to be aware of potential health implications related to caramel colour consumption.

  • Allergic Reactions: Some individuals may be sensitive or allergic to caramel colourings, especially those with allergies to certain foods, as can be derived from various sources such as corn, wheat and barley [2]. If you suspect an allergy, it is advisable to avoid its consumption and seek a healthcare professional. 

  • Caloric Content: Caramel (E150), like other sugars, contributes to the caloric content of food and beverages. Excessive sugar consumption from caramel-coloured products high in sugar can contribute to dental caries, weight gain and related health issues [4,5].

  • Controversial Compounds: During the production of certain types of caramel colouring (known as Class III and Class IV caramel), compounds such as 4-methylimidazole (4-MEI) may be formed. Some research has linked 4-MEI to cancer in animals [6]. However, there currently, there is no evidence that 4-MEI causes cancer in humans.

Recommendations for Safe Consumption

  • Acceptable Daily Intake (ADI): The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has established a group ADI of 300 mg/kg body weight/day for the four caramel colours [3]. Moreover, an individual ADI of 100 mg/kg body weight/day was considered for Class III Ammonia Caramel (E150c) due to the presence of THI, a compound responsible for adverse effects on the immune system in animal studies [7]. Staying within these established limits is a key part of safe consumption.

  • Read Product Labels: Always check the ingredient list on food and beverage labels for the presence of Caramel (E150). This allows you to monitor your intake and make informed choices based on any dietary preferences and sensitivities you may have.

  • Moderation: Consume caramel-coloured products in limited amounts as part of a balanced diet. Avoid overindulgence of caramel-sugary foods and beverages to maintain overall health. 

  • Food Choices: Opt for whole, unprocessed foods rich in nutrients that do not contain caramel (E150) or other food additives. A balanced diet of fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains is generally recommended for overall health.

  • Consult Healthcare Professionals: As always, if you have concerns regarding potential sensitivity to caramel colourants or experience adverse reactions following consumption, seek a health professional for allergen testing and tailored advice based on your specific health needs.


  1. Silva MM, Reboredo FH, Lidon FC. Food Colour Additives: A Synoptical Overview on Their Chemical Properties, Applications in Food Products, and Health Side Effects. Foods. 2022 Jan 28;11(3):379–9.

  2. Sengar G, Sharma HR. Food caramels: a review. Journal of Food Science and Technology. 2012 Feb 9;51(9):1686–96. 

  3. EFSA Panel on Food Additives and Nutrient Sources added to Food (ANS). Scientific Opinion on the re-evaluation of caramel colours (E 150 a,b,c,d) as food additives. EFSA Journal. 2011 Mar 8;9(3): 2004. 

  4. Malik V, Pan A, Willett WC, Hu FB. Sugar-sweetened beverages and weight gain in children and adults: a systematic review and meta-analysis. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2013 Aug 21;98(4):1084–102. 

  5. Feldens CA, Pinheiro LL, Cury JA, Mendonça F, Groisman M, Rafael RAH, Pereira HC, Vieira AR. Added Sugar and Oral Health: A Position Paper of the Brazilian Academy of Dentistry. Frontiers in oral health. 2022 Apr 6;3.

  6. National Toxicology Program. Toxicology and carcinogenesis studies of 4-methylimidazole (Cas No. 822-36-6) in F344/N rats and B6C3F1 mice (feed studies). Natl Toxicol Program Tech Rep Ser. 2007 Jan;(535):1-274.

  7. Houben GF, Penninks A. Immunotoxicity of the colour additive Caramel Colour III; A review on complicated issues in the safety evaluation of a food additive. Toxicology. 1994 Aug 1 ;91(3):289–302. 


We do our best to source robust information from a number of credible sources. There is, however, a large amount of information on various aspects of nutritional elements along with claims in terms of their contribution to helping in body health which may contradict the above.