INS No. 150a; Caramel I – plain caramel
INS No. 150b; Caramel II – sulfite caramel
INS No. 150c; Caramel III – ammonia caramel
INS No. 150d; Caramel IV – sulfite ammonia caramel
E 150a; Plain caramel
E 150b; Caustic sulphite caramel
E 150c; Ammonia caramel
E 150d; Sulphite ammonia caramel
Caramel usually occurs as a dark brown to black liquid or solid. It is a complex mixture of compounds, some of which are in the form of colloidal aggregates. Four distinct classes of Caramel can be distinguished by the reactants used in their manufacture and by specific identification tests: Classes I-IV. Class I Caramel is prepared by heating carbohydrates with or without acids or alkalis. Class II Caramel is prepared by heating carbohydrates with or without acids or alkalis in the presence of sulfite compounds. Class III Caramel is prepared by heating carbohydrates with or without acids or alkalis in the presence of ammonium compounds. Class IV Caramel is prepared by heating carbohydrates with or without acids or alkalis in the presence of both sulfite and ammonium compounds.
Caramel color is mostly used in soft drinks and alcoholic beverages. It can also be added to drugs, cosmetics, and food including confectionery, bakery products, dairy products, desserts, meat, seafood, vinegars, sauces, gravies, soups, snack food, fruit preparations, and convenient food.
Caramels (INS No. 150) are added to foods and beverages as adopted by the Codex Alimentarius Commission as follows:
Caramel I – plain caramel (INS No. 150a) is included in Table 3, and as such may be used in specific foods under the conditions of good manufacturing practices (GMP) as outlined in the Preamble of the Codex GSFA.
Caramel II – sulfite caramel (INS No. 150b) has MPLs adopted in 5 food categories, with many more draft provisions pending adoption.
JECFA (2001) Evaluation of certain food additives and contaminants. 55th report of the Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives. WHO Technical Report Series 901. Available online
JECFA (1986) Evaluation of certain food additives and contaminants. 29th report of the Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives. WHO Technical Report Series 733. Available online
EFSA Panel on Food Additives and Nutrient Sources added to Food (ANS); Scientific Opinion on the re-evaluation of caramel colors (E 150a,b,c,d) as food additives. EFSA Journal 2011;9(3):2004 [103 pp.]. Available online
Vollmuth TA. Caramel color safety – An update. Food Chem Toxicology. 2018 Jan; Vol 111: pp 578-596. Available online