5 Foods With Caramel Coloring That Might Make You Sick


cokeThe spotlight is on caramel coloring today after a U.S. consumer advocacy group urged the Food and Drug Administration to ban the additive because animal tests suggest it can cause cancer.

Caramel coloring is what typically gives cola drinks (Coke, Pepsi, Dr. Pepper, root beer, etc.) their dark brown color. But the additive is also found in several other foods and drinks.

Check out this list to see which foods contain the potentially harmful additive:

But first, a primer on caramel coloring -- namely, what is it? It's a chemically derived dark brown coloring used to add visual appeal to foods. (It should not in any way be confused with pure caramel, which is made from melted sugar and is quite delicious. Pure caramel isn't healthy either but it's not cancer-causing as far as has been proven.)

Current federal regulations allow four types of artificial caramel coloring. Two of these -- Caramel III and Caramel IV -- have been flagged by the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) as being made with ammonia. Government-led studies have shown these colorings caused liver, lung, leukemia, and thyroid cancer in lab rats and mice.

And, now you understand the reason CSPI is petitioning for the ban.

But dark-colored sodas aren't the only products that contain these chemicals. Check out these other foods and drinks that contain these ingredients:

Beer: Caramel coloring (Caramel III) is often used in the beer-making process (even for light-colored beers) because it provides color, stability, and flavor.

Soy sauce: Caramel III is often used to produce synthetic soy sauce in order to obtain the appropriate color and flavor.

Gravies (and other sauces): Caramel III is often used here to get that deep and luxurious brown color.

Licorice: Some conventional varieties of this sugary convection contain Caramel III.

Dark breads: Particularly for some dark breads like pumpernickel or rye, Caramel IV is sometimes used to enhance flavor and visual appeal.

It may be that the claims by the CSPI are baseless as far as caramel coloring being dangerous for humans. In fact, the American Beverage Association dismisses the petition for a ban as an "outrageous and egregious attempt to dupe and scare the public."

But if you're one of those consumers that is paranoid about possibly carcinogenic ingredients in your food and beverages, then you might want to start checking the labels on the above foods.

Are you scared of caramel coloring?

Image via AlexG/Flickr

food safety


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tabit... tabithacrowley

Nope, not scared.  If you avoid everything that could kill you- at some point, possibly- then you'd die right then.  Not even water is safe to drink a lot of the time now, so you really can't avoid everything.  If I'm going to get cancer, I'm going to get it.  I'll fight it with everything I have, but as far as I know, there isn't a way to avoid all exposure to possible cancer-causing stuff.

Desiree Van Polen

What ever happened to Clear Pepsi anyways? I loved it! And it didnt leave that grimey color on your teeth. They had it out in the 90's but it never came back- I miss it.

Madel... MadelynMc

Well considering I don't eat the foods you mentioned very often (if ever), then no. But we all need to wake up and drop this "I'm going to die anyway" attitude about food additives, preservatives, and other chemicals. The percentage of cancers (and any chronic diseases really) that can be attributed to genetics is pretty small, so why is it so hard for people to believe that the food we put into our mouths and the products we put directly on our skin have something to do with it?

Alexis Cantu

hey everybody should already know  coca cola is bad for you...too much can cause diabetes, its a better drain cleaner than most drain cleaners, dark colas can contribute to kidney stones...but you know something else i still drink the hell outta that stuff bc i want to...i know its bad but i do it...everything can kill you these days anyway lol


I cannot have any of these things anyway,  unless they are gluten free.  The good thing about having celiac disease is that I have to avoid so many things that aren't good for me in the first place.  Reading labels since I have had to be so careful has made it much easier to avoid all kinds of nasty things.

Lokis... LokisMama

Ppbbtt.  If it's not one thing that's going to kill you, it's a dozen or so others.   I'll keep drinking my Cherry Coke. :D

roach... roachiesmom

I will have to die before I give up my Coke, but this can further my belief that gravy is pure evil. :o)

AnuMeha AnuMeha

Hey we need not be scared but these beverages can be avoided. I generally consume it very less. Instead would like to have fruit juices with no artificial sweeteners and color.

lovet... lovetocook64

clear pepsi?I never heard of it,did it taste the same?

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