Should You Worry About Caramel Color As A Health Risk?

Some consumer advocacy groups have raised concerns about 4-MeI, a compound that’s formed when certain caramel colors are manufactured for products like cola drinks. 4-MeI is formed in the cooking process for certain caramel colors. 4-MeI also forms in other foods and beverages during normal cooking—such as when coffee beans are roasted or bread and baked goods are baked.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) have both stated that they do not believe there is any immediate or short-term danger presented by 4-MeI at the levels expected in food from caramel color. In other words, the everyday consumption of caramel color is not a health concern.

Regulators, as well as commercial food and color manufacturers, continue their efforts to understand and control 4-MeI. In the interim, the FDA is not recommending that consumers change their diets because of concerns about 4-MeI. To learn more, visit and search for “caramel color.”

How Can You Tell What Food Products Contain Caramel Color?

Simply look at the ingredients list on the package. Every food that contains added color is required to list it on the label either by name such as “caramel color” or by a phrase such as “artificial color” or “color added.” (By the way, the terms “artificial color” and “color added” don’t necessarily mean that caramel coloring is present in a food. A variety of other color ingredients also are commonly used in food, and may have been incorporated.)

How Is Caramel Color Regulated Around The World?

Caramel color is regulated as a color additive. Prominent public health agencies including the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the World Health Organization (WHO), Codex Alimentarius, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and Health Canada all provide oversight for caramel color in their respective countries, regions, or globally.

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