Caramel colours are among the most used food colours in the world. Producers have known about them and used them for a very long time.
Caramel colours give foods and drinks a colour that ranges from light yellow to dark brown, depending on the type of caramel used and the dose.
The history of caramel colours goes a long way back. One could say that the process of caramellisation has been known since the early days of cooking. It was not until the 19th century, however, that caramel colours gained commercial significance, first as an additive in the brewery industry, and later, from the early 20th century, in the soft drink industry, when a method for achieving acid stable caramel colour had been developed.
As food additives authorised and used for over 100 years, the safety and technological advantage of caramel colours in end products have been recognised by end users and confirmed by regulatory bodies.
Besides, as with all food additives, caramel colours are strictly regulated in Europe and worldwide. These regulations define their physical properties, their conditions of use, their daily admissible doses and purity criteria.
As responsible manufacturers, EUTECA members have always considered safety as their top priority. That is why they monitor carefully the regulatory and scientific developments surrounding their products, to make sure that they are safe and in line with the regulations in force.
Caramel colour is manufactured using edible carbohydrates such as glucose or sucrose, which are heated and sometimes mixed with a reactant under controlled temperature and pressure until desired colour intensity is obtained, after which the caramel colour is cooled, filtered and stored until put on the market.
Caramel colour being used in a wide range of foods and drinks, its producers have developed four different categories of caramels – which the sector calls “classes” – with the help of the different compounds that promote the caramelisation. These classes are tailored for specific foods and recipes. For example, Class III caramel(E 150c) is typically used in beers whereas Class IV caramel (E 150d) is often used in soft drinks. These classes also correspond to the four different “E numbers” that can be used on food labels in Europe: E 150 a to d.