Caramel Color

Caramel Color is the world's most widely used food color. It is used largely to impart color in numerous foods and beverages including soft drinks, brewery, savory, baking, spirits, pet food, etc. It is also used in some cosmetic and non-food applications. Caramel Color is not a flavor but simply a coloring agent. In USA, Caramel Color, according to the Code of Federal Regulations (21 CFR 73.85) is the dark-brown liquid or solid resulting from the carefully controlled heat treatment of food grade carbohydrate. Certain food grade acids, alkalis and salts may be employed to assist the caramelization of the carbohydrate. The resulting Caramel Colors are GRAS (Generally Recognized as Safe) according to 21 CFR 182.1235. In Europe, Caramel Color is a dark brown product resulting from the meticulously-controlled thermal treatment of carbohydrates (sugars), combined with caramelization promoters. It is the most commonly used coloring additive in the food industry. Caramel Color is not a flavor, simply a coloring agent. Caramel Colors are divided into four separate categories depending on the reactants used in their production. More information about caramel colors can be found on the International Technical Caramel Association (ITCA) Caramel Facts page.
No, Caramel Color does not have an “ingredient list” because it is a single color additive, and Sethness Roquette Caramel Colors are 100% Caramel Color. Feel free to check the labeling page for more information.
The term “caramel” is often used to describe confections and flavors made by heating sugar potentially mixed with other components like milk, cream, butter… (our products in this category are called “Specialty Caramels” or “Caramel Ingredients”). The term “Caramel Color” only describes a specific type of "caramel", which is a color additive.
"Caramel Color" is one of the oldest and most widely used food colorings for enhancing colors, correcting natural variations in color, and protecting colors that could be lost to light degradation during food processing and storage. Often, consumers ask whether Caramel Color is the same as caramel. The term "caramel" is often used to describe confections and flavors made from caramelized sugar. The term "Caramel Color" only describes the color additive, but its name comes from the caramelization process involved in manufacturing it. The caramelization reaction is the browning of sugar during the cooking process. Simply heating sugar without any other reactants, such as when heating sugar on a stove top, results in a deep brown syrupy solution, typically known as "caramel". To make Caramel Color, one can choose from sucrose or other types of sugar, such as dextrose, invert sugar, malt syrup, or starch hydrolysates or fractions thereof. The process to generate Caramel Color is a combination of caramelization and the more complicated Maillard reaction, which typically involves amino acids (a nitrogen source) and a baking, roasting, or searing type of cooking.
Although high-quality carbohydrates are the main component in the manufacture of the majority of Sethness Roquette Caramel Colors, the resulting material generally has a low caloric value. During the manufacturing process for Caramel Color, the carbohydrates polymerize with the reactants to form color bodies. The color components are virtually unabsorbed in the gastrointestinal tract and are not biologically available. The remaining caloric value of Caramel Colors can be attributed to unreacted sugars that remain after manufacture.
Sethness Roquette has been safely manufacturing and marketing Caramel Colors since 1880. Caramel Colors have undergone full regulatory review and are safely used throughout the world. In USA, all of our Caramel Colors adhere to the Standard of Identify for Caramel Color 21 CFR 73.85. They are likewise approved as GRAS (Generally Recognized as Safe) for both food and feed under 21 CFR 182.1235 and 582.1235 respectively, and are approved for both drug and cosmetic use under 21 CFR 73.1085 (drugs) and 73.2085 (cosmetics). In Europe, The European Food Safety Authority's scientific Panel on Food Additives and Nutrient Sources added to Food (ANS) has assessed the safety of a group of Caramel Colors authorized for use in food in the European Union. Some people may be concerned with 4-MeI (4-Methylimidazole) which forms during the production of Class III and Class IV Caramel Colors. There is no evidence that 4-MeI causes cancer or poses any other health risks to humans. In addition, no health regulatory agency around the globe, including the US FDA, has said that 4-MeI is a known human carcinogen. 4-MeI is virtually ubiquitous, found in trace amounts in a wide variety of foods and beverages (like coffee). It forms naturally during the heating, roasting or cooking process of many foods. Sethness Roquette is GFSI-certified (Global Food Safety Initiative) annually, We also have HACCP programs for all of our liquid and powdered products and follow current GMP's. For more information regarding the safety of Caramel Colors, we invite you to visit the ITCA Caramel Facts website.
International regulations such as the FAO/WHO Joint Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA) designate Caramel Color classes, per their definitions, with INS 150a, b, c, or d. European Union uses E150a, b, c, or d per their definitions. The Product Specification and Technical Data sheets state the E150 numbers for those Caramel Colors that are compliant to the European regulation. In USA, the Food Chemical Codex (FCC) divides Caramel Colors into four classes depending on if or what food grade reactants are used in manufacture, as well as other characteristics. Tests on all of these classes have supported the safety of the product, and all classes of Caramel Color are GRAS: Class I, or Plain Caramel Colors, labeled E150a according to EU regulation. Class I Caramel Colors are the most minimally processed of the four classes. The carbohydrate raw material is simply heated, and no ammonium or sulfite compounds are allowed in Class I production. The resulting Caramel Color carries a neutral to slightly negative ionic charge. Class II, Caustic Sulfite Caramel Colors, labeled E150b according to EU regulation. The carbohydrate raw material is heated in the presence of sulfite compounds. The resulting Caramel Color carries a negative ionic charge. Class III, Ammonia Caramel Colors, labeled E150c according to EU regulation. The carbohydrate raw material is heated in the presence of ammonium compounds. The resulting low-sulfite Caramel Color carries a positive ionic charge. Class IV, Sulfite Ammonia Caramel Colors, labeled E150d according to EU regulation. The carbohydrate raw material is heated in the presence of both sulfite and ammonium compounds. The resulting Caramel Color carries a negative ionic charge.
To address the consumer demand for clean-labels and “Free From” ingredients, Sethness Roquette continues to expand its wide variety of Caramel Colors that meet the unique specifications of many of today's food and beverage products. In addition to the diverse color spectrum of Sethness Roquette Class I to Class IV Caramel Colors, Sethness Roquette provides a multitude of clean-label options:   •  Gluten-free   •  Allergen-free   •  G.R.A.S.   •  Certified Organic   •  Minimally-processed   •  Non-GMO Project Verified   •  Vegan   •  Kosher   •  Halal Sethness Roquette Caramel Colors are safe ingredients you can feel good about using.

Discover our clean-label offering in video:

All Sethness Roquette Caramel Colors are Kosher and Halal certified, and we produce small amounts of certified Kosher for Passover Caramel Colors.
Caramel Color undergoes strict laboratory testing to assure product quality. The three main laboratory tests to standardize a production lot of liquid Caramel Color are:  1.  Color Strength (Tinctorial Power): defined as the absorbance of a 0.1% solution (weight/volume) in water, measured using a 1 cm light path at a wavelength of 560 nanometers.  2.  Baumé: measures density or specific gravity at a given temperature.  3.  pH in different dilution % depending on the form of the product (liquid or powder). Several other parameters are important in the measurement of Caramel Color including, but not limited to: Viscosity, Hue Index, Resinification, Haze and Gel, Alcohol Solubility, Salt Stability, and Beer Test.   •  Viscosity is the flowability of a liquid. Thick products generally carry a high viscosity. This often reflects the quality and the shelf life of a Caramel Color, but is not related to a Caramel Color's color strength.   •  Hue Index is a measure of Caramel Color's red tones, and is calculated as a function of the absorbance of two wavelengths, 510 and 610 nanometers. Higher hue index products are generally more reddish.   •  Resinification is an accelerated stability test. The Caramel Color is sealed in an airtight ampule and heated at 100°C. Time in hours is measured until the material no longer flows. Typical shelf life of Caramel Colors made from glucose or fructose syrups is two years from the date of manufacture.   •  Haze and Gel is a dual purpose test used to demonstrate the level of product stability in strong phosphoric acid solutions. This test is mainly for the soft drink industry.   •  Alcohol Stability, as well as Salt Stability Tests, are designed to test for the compatibility of the Caramel Colors in differing levels of concentrations of solutions over time.   •  Beer Test measures the compatibility of a Caramel Color in beer.
Although all Caramel Colors are water soluble, use in oil-based systems is possible with the right treatment. Caramel Color can be dispersed in an oil system resulting in pastes or emulsions. Our Recommendations on the Addition of Caramel Color in a Non-Aqueous (Fat) System are the following procedures: Suggestion 1:  1 . Disperse any powdered or liquid Caramel Color in an equal weight of propylene glycol or glycerol. The dispersion will look like a paste; it can be thinned down by increasing the percentage of propylene glycol or glycerol.  2 . Disperse this mixture into the fat phase by using high shear mixing and a small amount of a nonionic surfactant such as Polysorbate 80 or Polysorbate 20 (less than 0.5%). Suggestion 2:  1 . Disperse any powdered or liquid Caramel Color into lecithin.  2 . Disperse this mixture into the fat phase by using high shear mixing and a small amount of a nonionic surfactant such as Polysorbate 80 or Polysorbate 20 (less than 0.5%). Suggestion 3:  1 . If the application contains a fondant blend, add the powdered or liquid Caramel Color to this material  2 . Mix this fondant/Caramel Color blend in the (fat) phase by high shear mixing. Using one of the above techniques, a customer should be able to achieve a relatively stable emulsion of Caramel Color in a non-aqueous (fat) system.
In USA: Sethness Roquette Caramel Colors, in their final form, do not contain Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO's), but depending upon the carbohydrate used to produce a specific Caramel Color and its country of origin (USA), it could be referred to as either “derived from” or “not derived from” GMO's. Sethness Roquette Caramel Colors that are manufactured in Clinton, Iowa (USA) from corn syrups do not contain GMO's, because corn syrups are refined only from the starch fraction of corn which does not contain any genetic material. The corn syrups are analyzed annually at a laboratory capable of detecting CaMV 35S promoter and the NOS terminator. The results have always been PCR Negative, indicating that they do not contain any genetic material. Caramel Color is produced under high temperature, high pressure, and generally under acidic conditions. If any DNA was present in the starting carbohydrate, it would be degraded and hydrolyzed due to the processing conditions. Given the purity of our raw materials and our stringent processing conditions, Sethness Roquette can say with confidence that our liquid and powder Caramel Colors are free of any genetically-engineered (GE) material. These products would be considered “GMO-Free” by test or derived from GE corn, but do not contain GE material. In addition, Sethness Roquette USA has twelve of its Caramel Colors and Caramelized Sugar Syrups which are Non-GMO Project Verified. In Europe: We certify that all our Caramels (Colors, Ingredients, Specialty...) are not derived from agricultural products that are genetically modified. All our maize derived products also satisfy the identity preservation requirements of the European Union. Consequently our products do not need to be labeled according to 1829/2003/CE and 1830/2003/CE regulations. This present statement is applicable to the following range of products:     - Caramel Colors (liquid and powder form)     - Burnt Sugars and Caramelized Sugar Syrups (liquid and powder form)     - Brewing syrups (liquid form)     - Caramel Ingredients (liquid form)     - Specialty Caramels (pastes and flakes form)
In any of its Caramel Color production plants, Sethness Roquette does not use any ingredients that contain protein allergens including milk, egg, fish, crustacean shellfish, tree nuts, wheat, peanuts, sesame or soybeans. Regarding gluten, Caramel Colors can be produced with glucose syrup derived from conventional wheat and maize. Gluten is not present in any of the carbohydrate used by Sethness Roquette as raw material. Sethness Roquette guarantees that all of its Caramel Colors contain no gluten and meet the 21 CFR 101.91 gluten-free requirements by the FDA (USA). According to the European Union regulation 1169/2011, glucose syrups made from wheat and its derivatives (including Caramel Colors) are exempt from labeling as an allergen. Regarding sulfites, some Caramel Colors might contain traces of sulfites. See the following question.
Sethness Roquette Caramel Colors do not contain any post-manufacturing “sulfiting agents” typically added to food products to enhance the stability of the final product. Sulfiting agents used for stabilization are readily determined by both digestive and non-digestive methods. Any sulfite found in Sethness Roquette Caramel Colors comes from one of two sources:  1 . When Caramel Color is tested to contain above 50 ppm of sulfite or greater, then sulfite is used as a necessary and allowed process reactant (as defined by the FDA in USA, 21 CFR 73.85) to assist in the formation of the colored bodies generated in the process of manufacturing Caramel Colors. These are Class II (E150b) Caramel Colors and Class IV (E150d) Caramel Colors. This sulfite is incorporated into the Caramel Color as a part of the polymer chains. When a Sethness Roquette Caramel Color is analyzed for free sulfite using a non-digestive method, the result is nil.  2 . When Caramel Color is tested to contain less than 50 ppm of sulfite, then the sulfite result is assumed to be from residual levels in the carbohydrate source. Also, the test for sulfite is such that it will not give a result that is conclusively free of sulfites. Therefore, Sethness Roquette has set our sulfite limits to be within the limit of detection and accuracy of the test and possible residual sulfites from the carbohydrate source. These are Class I (E150a) Caramel Colors and Class III (E150c) Caramel Colors. Of the four types of Caramel Colors (as defined by JECFA), two are manufactured using sulfite (sulfur dioxide, SO2) as a reactant. Class II (E150b) Caramel Colors, are “sulfite process” Caramel Colors. Class IV (E150d) Caramel Colors are “sulfite ammonia process” Caramel Colors. Class I (E150a) and Class III (E150c) Caramel Colors do not use sulfite as a reactant and only have trace levels of sulfite. As required by FDA, the sulfite content in Sethness Roquette Caramel Color is determined by the official FDA Modified/AOAC method (a digestive method) where the test material sample is heated in hydrochloric acid solution for 120 minutes under controlled conditions. The acid and heat used in this method break down (digest) the polymers releasing the sulfite. The sulfite range, or limit, is listed on the bottom of Sethness Roquette Caramel Color Product Specification and Technical Data sheets. In the USA, the FDA requires the labeling of sulfite on finished products ready for consumer use. The labeling requirement is only for finished products that contain 10 ppm of sulfite or more (as defined by 21 CFR 101.100 (a)(4)). Caramel Color is not a finished product; it is a color additive. The usage level of Caramel Color must be taken into account to determine the possible final amount of sulfite in a finished product. Feel free to look at our Allergen and Sulfite Statement for more information.
The Hue Index is the measure of the color hue or red characteristics of the Caramel Color. Hue is a function of the absorbance at 510 and 610 nm. Generally, the higher the Tinctorial Power, KO.56, the lower the Hue Index and the lower the red tones are.