Caramel color


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  • Caramel color or caramel coloring is a water-soluble food coloring. It is made by heat treatment of carbohydrates, in general in the presence of acidsalkalis, or salts, in a process called caramelization. It is more fully oxidized than caramel candy, and has an odor of burnt sugar and a somewhat bitter taste. Its color ranges from pale yellow to amber to dark brown.
  • Caramel color is one of the oldest and most widely used food colorings for enhancing naturally occurring colors, correcting natural variations in color, and replacing color that is lost to light degradation during food processing and storage. The use of caramel color as a food additive in the brewing industry in the 19th century is the first recorded instance of it being manufactured and used on a wide scale. Today, caramel color is found in many commercially produced foods and beverages, including battersbeer, brown bread, buns, chocolate,[2] cookies, cough drops, spirits and liquor such as brandyrum, and whisky, chocolate-flavored confectionery and coatings, custards, decorations, fillings and toppings, potato chips, dessert mixes, doughnuts, fish and shellfish spreads, frozen desserts, fruit preserves, glucose tablets, gravy, ice creampicklessauces and dressings, soft drinks (especially colas), sweets, vinegar, and more. Caramel color is widely approved for use in food globally but application and use level restrictions vary by country.


  • Internationally, the United Nations Joint Food and Agriculture Organization/World Health Organization Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA) recognizes four classes of caramel color, differing by the reactants used in their manufacture, each with its own INS and E number, listed in the table below. Each class consists of a variety of caramels with their own unique properties that make it suitable for use in specific foods and/or beverages.
ClassINS / E NumberDescriptionProperties, Qualities, & BenefitsUsed in
I 150a / E150a Plain caramel, caustic caramel, spirit caramel Strong aftertaste and mild aroma; color ranges from yellow to red; stable in alcohol, tannin, and salt-rich environments  Whiskey and other high proof alcohols, pet food, cookies, crackers, cereal bars, other baked goods, lemonade products, juice concentrates, and cocoa extenders
II 150b / E150b Caustic sulfite caramel Mild flavor and aroma; exceptional red tone; good stability in alcohol Tea, wine, rum, whiskey, brandy, cognac, sherry, some vinegars, light cake mixes, and other snack foods
III 150c / E150c Ammonia caramel, baker's caramel, confectioner's caramel, beer caramel Sweet aroma; red-brown color; stable in alcohol and salt-rich environments Beer, cereal, pet food, licorice, confectionery, and gravy, soy, and BBQ sauce
IV 150d / E150d Sulfite ammonia caramel, acid-proof caramel, soft-drink caramel Very mild flavor and aroma; rich dark brown color; stable in alcohol, tannin, and acid-rich environments Soft drinks and other carbonated beverages, balsamic vinegar, coffee, chocolate syrups, baked goods, cocoa extenders, pet foods, sauces, soups, meat rubs, seasoning blends, and other flavorings