Consumers should be confident that caramel colouring is safe

9 March 2012

European Food Safety Authority reaffirmed safety following scientific review

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) reaffirmed the safety of caramel colouring back in March 2011 following a comprehensive review of the scientific literature. It stated that the presence of 4-MEI in caramel colouring is not a health concern.

Leading regulatory authorities around the world also judge caramel colouring as safe for use in food and beverages. In November 2011 Health Canada said that 4-MEI, including that found in certain caramel colours, does “not represent a risk” to consumers, and the U.S Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved caramel as a colour additive and lists it as “a generally recognized as safe” food ingredient.

Commenting on the CSPI study linking caramel to cancer in rodents, an FDA spokesperson noted that “a consumer would have to drink more than 1,000 cans a day to reach the doses administered in the study,” and this would be for a whole lifetime.



Note to editors

4-MEI forms in foods such as caramel during the heating, roasting and cooking process. It is found in trace amounts in many foods and beverages including baked goods, coffee, bread, molasses, soy sauce, gravies and some beers.

The State of California added 4-MEI to its list of carcinogens with no studies showing that it causes cancer in humans. A US National Toxicity Program study does not even list 4-MEI as “reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen” in its Report on Carcinogens.


For further information please contact:
Sam Rowe, or +32 475 361286