Caramel color is one of the primary ingredients in soda for many reasons. However, it's quite controversial for many reasons as well. Caramel color is an ingredient in literally thousands of food products including soda. It can be produced using several different methods and it has become an ingredient that is under huge scrutiny for possible health risks.

You will find caramel coloring in thousands of food products incuding desserts, fruit preserves, beer, bread, liquors, chocolate, shellfish and of course, soda. Take a look through your kitchen. You will find the ingredient in everything from frozen waffles to ketchup. It can be quite disturbing when you realize this. Up until recent years, many experts believed that caramel color was non-essential, yet harmless nonetheless. However, the state of California now believes it to be a carcinogen.

Caramel color is produced when carbohydrates are heated with other substances present including salts, acids and alkalis. These other substances react with the heated carbohydrates to create a caramelized substance. This is much the same thing that happens when caramelized sugar and candies are made, however because sugar is not what is present during the caramel color making process, the substance produced is not sweet. It is bitter. Sugar is added to make your soda taste sweet. Caramel color tends to smell like burned sugar and can range in color from gold to dark brown depending on how much heat is added.

When the carbohydrates are heated a chemical is produced called 4-methylimidazole also called 4-MI and 4-MEI. Sometimes another chemical is produced when caramel color is made called ammonia-sulfite. The state of California believes that both of these chemicals should be labelled as carcinogens and if a product contains enough of these chemicals, the state will label them as carcinogens in the same way cigarettes are labeled. In order to avoid this, soda manufacturers have changed their caramel color manufacturing methods.

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