Is 150a vegan?

In this brief guide, we will answer the query, “Is 150d vegan?” and will discuss the health benefits of food color 150d.

Is 150d vegan?

Yes, 150d is vegan. Caramel-brown food color (150d) is water-soluble. It has a burned sugar odor and is made by burning sucrose to a high temperature. Light yellow to amber to dark brown are all possible shades. Sucrose is obtained from different plant sources, that’s why 150d is vegan.

Caramel coloring is one of the oldest and most extensively used food colorings, the same chemical that turns your colas brown and gives beers their amber gold coloration. Caramel coloring is not the same as candy, even though it sounds like it. It is an amorphous, dark brown product resulting from the controlled heat treatment of carbohydrates such as dextrose, sucrose, and malt syrup. It is available in liquid and powdered forms, providing shades of brown (1). Caramel coloring is available in four varieties, two of which have been linked to cancer in experimental animals.

Other names: Class IV caramel, Sulphite Ammonia Caramel, Acid proof caramel, soft drink caramel

A study in France investigated the presence of additives in food. Results showed that fifty-three-point eight percent of food products contained at least 1 food additive and 11.3% at least 5. Some food additives with suspected health effects also pertained to the top 50: sodium nitrite, potassium nitrate, carrageenan, monosodium glutamate, sulfite ammonia caramel, acesulfame K, sucralose, (di/tri/poly) phosphates, mono- and diglycerides of fatty acids, potassium sorbate, cochineal, potassium metabisulphite, sodium alginate, and bixin (>800 food products each) (4).

The process of making caramel color

It is the heating of carbohydrates (sugar) that results in caramelization, the process of producing caramel color. Acid and salt are usually present, but none that isn’t vegan. Is the carbohydrate used in this recipe vegan? There are a variety of sweeteners commercially used to produce caramel color:

·         Sucrose

·         Fructose

·         Glucose

·         Syrup of malt

·         Molasses

·         Starch hydrolysate

Caramel color, for example, is often vegan since it is vegan in the vast majority of these formulations.

Caramel color is produced in a controlled cooking process by heating food-grade carbohydrates to various temperatures and pressures with different reactants (e.g., acids, alkalis, sulfite-containing compounds, ammonium-containing compounds) to assist the caramelization process and produce greater color intensity. In the U.S., high dextrose corn syrup is a commonly used carbohydrate in the manufacture of caramel color, but invert sugar, glucose, glucose syrups, fructose, dextrose, sucrose, honey and molasses have also been used as starting carbohydrates. Four different classes of caramel color are produced, each with slightly different chemical and functional properties that ensure compatibility with the food being colored and eliminate undesirable interactions (e.g., haze, flocculation, separation). Certified organic and non-GM0 caramel colors are now commercially available with cane sugar being the preferred starting sugar (2).


Caramel color is a combination because caramelization is a complicated and poorly understood process that creates hundreds of chemical compounds.

The browning of sugar while heating is known as the caramelization reaction. Temperature and type of carbohydrate influence the degree of incomplete decomposition, dehydration, and polymerization that occurs throughout the process.

At 160°C, sucrose breaks down into glucose and fructan. When the temperature rises over 200 degrees Fahrenheit, the isotope may be polymerized into a caramel alkane (C24H36O18) n and a caramel olefin (C36H50O25). A combination of the aforesaid dehydrated polymers is produced following caramelization.

During the production process, a number of chemical reactions take place, some which are responsible for the formation of high molecular weight constituents responsible for the distinctive colors associated with caramel colors, but others that result in the formation of low molecular weight substances such as tetrahydroxy- butylimidazole, 5-hydroxymethylfurfural and furan; low levels of residual sulfites are also found in some caramel colors. The choice of ingredients and production conditions (e.g., temperature, pressure, time, pH) impact the chemical and physical properties including color shade and intensity associated with the high molecular weight constituents and the type and quantity of low molecular weight substances formed (2).

Types of caramel

Caramel colors are coloring substances authorized as food additives in the EU, and are classified according to the reactants used in their manufacture as follows: Class I Plain Caramel or Caustic Caramel (E 150a); Class II Caustic Sulphite Caramel (E 150b); Class III Ammonia Caramel (E 150c) and Class IV Sulphite Ammonia Caramel (E 150d) (3).

In addition to the four varieties of caramel coloring used in soda, two types of caramel coloring react with ammonium compounds and one that reacts with sugars with sulfites. Foods such as brown bread, chocolate, cough drops, vinegar, custard fillings, doughnuts, gravy browning, and many more goods include caramel coloring.

Health benefits of food color 150d


4-methylimidazole can be formed by the interaction of ammonia with reducing sugars. Since ammonia and reducing sugars are common components of foods, and roasting and heating are common in food processing, 4-MeI has been found in many foods. It can also be found in Class III and IV caramel colors and in products containing these colors such as soy sauce, wine, dark beers, soft drinks and other foods and from the production processes used in some products such as coffee, breads and baked goods (2).

2-MEI and 4-MEI are two forms of caramel coloring that react with ammonia and produce carcinogenic byproducts. The Center for Science in the Public Interest petitioned the Food and Drug Administration in January 2011 to prohibit these two varieties of caramel coloring. At the same time, California added 4-MEI to its list of recognized carcinogens. National Institutes of Health research released in 2003 and 2005 found that the chemicals caused cancer in certain mice and rats. Both complaints are based on these investigations.

The Immune System

2-Acetyl-4-tetrahydroxy-butylimidazole (THI) is only found in Class III caramel color, which is related to negative effects in the immune system. According to research published in “Toxicological Sciences” in 1993, caramel coloring III, the kind made with ammonia but not sulfites, may lower healthy white blood cell numbers in your circulation. During a month-long experiment in the Netherlands, researchers gave mice a meal enriched with caramel coloring III and then tested their immune response to Trichinella spiralis, a bacterium that causes trichinosis. The immunological function of the mice given the greatest amounts of caramel coloring was significantly reduced (2).

Studies demonstrated that Class III caramel color induced lymphocytopenia in rats and mice when ingested at high levels (≥3%) in the diet. Additional studies, including subchronic and chronic studies, were conducted to investigate this effect and the possible underlying mechanism(s), and it was subsequently determined that 2-acetyl-4(5)-tetrahydroxybutylimidazole (THI), an imidazole component in Caramel color III, was responsible for this effect (2).


The Panel on Food Additives and Nutrient Sources added to Food (ANS) published a document to deliver a scientific opinion re-evaluating the safety of caramel colors (E 150a,b,c,d) when used as food coloring substances and noted, based on reviewed material, that no cases of intolerance and allergenicity linked to caramel exposure have been reported in published literature (3).

Is 150d a natural or artificial color?

Even though this food color is generated from substances that may be found in nature, it is always referred to as natural. There is more to it than that, however.

Caramel colors, as we all know, are formed from nutritive sweeteners that are cooked to a certain temperature and then chemically and physically altered. That means it cannot be termed “natural” using the meaning of “natural” as occurring or formed from substances found in nature.

Because they’re natural, they’re not “man-made.”

This may be labeled as an artificial color by the FDA. In the eyes of the FDA, the word “natural” means that nothing artificial or synthetic has been included in, or has been added to, a product that would not typically be anticipated to be contained in that food. 

With the exception of caramel prepared by processes using ammonia and ammonium salts, caramel colors could be considered natural constituents of the diet and acceptable as additives (1).


In this brief guide, we answered the query, “Is 150d vegan?” and discussed the health benefits of food color 150d.

Was this helpful?

Thanks for your feedback!



Igoe, Robert S. Dictionary of food ingredients. Springer Science & Business Media, 2011.


Vollmuth, Thomas A. Caramel color safety–an update. Food chem toxicol, 2018, 111, 578-596.


EFSA Panel on Food Additives and Nutrient Sources added to Food (ANS). Scientific opinion on the re‐evaluation of caramel colours (E 150 a, b, c, d) as food additives. EFSA J, 2011, 9, 2004.


Chazelas, E., Deschasaux, M., Srour, B. et al. Food additives: distribution and co-occurrence in 126,000 food products of the French market. Sci Rep, 2020, 10, 3980.