Europe sets intake levels for caramel colors

by Jeff Gelski
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PARMA, ITALY — A European Food Safety Authority panel has set a group Acceptable Daily Intake (ADI) to cover all caramel colors after assessing the safety of a group of caramel colors. The March 8 announcement comes after the Center for Science in the Public Interest on Feb. 16 filed a regulatory petition with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration that calls for the banning of ammonia sulfite process caramel coloring, also known as Caramel IV, and Caramel III, which is produced with ammonia but not sulfites.

The E.F.S.A.’s scientific Panel on Food Additives and Nutrient Sources added to Food (ANS) concluded that based on available data the caramel colors it studied are neither genotoxic nor carcinogenic and that no evidence shows they have any adverse effects on human reproduction of the developing child. The panel established a group acceptable daily intake of 300 mg per kilogram (2.2 lbs) of body weight for all four caramel colors.

The panel, however, set an ADI of 100 mg per kilogram of body weight per day for one specific color — caramel E150c. This color contains 2-acetyl-4-tetrahyroxibutylimidazole (THI). The panel took into account uncertainties related to THI’s possible effects on the immune system.

“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,” said John Christian Larsen, chair of the panel.

The European panel added adults and children who are high consumers of foods with the caramel colors may exceed the ADIs established for three caramel colors — E150a, E150c and E150d — if the colors are used at the maximum levels reported by industry.

Byproducts formed in the manufacturing of caramel colors may vary considerably depending on production process, according to the panel. Since some of the byproducts are of toxilogical concern, the panel recommended specifications defined for caramel colors in European Union legislation be updated to include maximum levels for the byproducts.

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