The European Food Safety Authority’s (EFSA’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,” concluding that all four classes “are neither genotoxic, nor carcinogenic and that there is no evidence to show that they have any adverse effects on human reproduction or for the developing child.” The ANS Panel evidently reevaluated the safety of Class I Plain Caramel or Caustic Caramel (E 150a), Class II Caustic Sulfite Caramel (E 150b), Class III Ammonia Caramel (E 150c) and Class IV Sulfite Ammonia Caramel (E 150d), setting a group acceptable daily intake (ADI) of 300 mg per kg body weight per day (mg/kg bw/day). It also set a more restrictive ADI of 100 mg/kg bw/day for caramel E150c. As ANS Panel Chair John Christian Larsen explained, “This means that within the group ADI of 300 mg/kg bw/day established for the four caramel colors, only 100 mg/kg bw/day can be made up by E150c[4].”

The panel also reviewed the scientific literature on 4-methylimidazole (4-MEI), a by-product of caramel colorings processed with ammonia or sulfite ammonia, but found the maximum level established for 4-MEI “to be sufficiently protective.” ANS noted, however, that “it would be prudent” for manufacturers to keep the by-products of caramel colors “as low as technologically feasible,” and has recommended further research “on the relation between the production of caramel colors and the formation and nature of derived constituents.” See EFSA News Story, March 8, 2011.