Caramel colours are produced from various carbohydrates like wheat, corn -dextrose, invert sugar, malt syrup from barley, molasses, lactose, wheat and corn starch hydrolysates, which are heated in the presence of acids like sulfites, alkalies like ammonium and the salts like ammonium, bicarbonate, sulfate and bisulfite.
E150b is classified under Caramel Color II, all together there are four different classes of caramel colors: I-IV. You can get really confused with different types and names of caramel colors so here are some basic information: Class I: E150a: Plain Caramel, Caustic Caramel or Spirit Caramel has no ammonium or sulfites added. So sulfite wise this is safe, otherwise I think that more chemical additives you can avoid, the better it is for you.
Class II is E150b , Caustic Sulfite Caramel Color, which has sulfites, like the name says. Trace amounts in many cases and often the total amount is under 10 ppm, so warning about sulfites is not found in the label so you need to know this and memorize the code E150b, or 150b depending where you are, since E stands for Europe. No ammonium is added to this food color.
Caramel III, E150c, Ammonia Caramel contains ammonium, but no sulfites and this color is often used in baking, soy sauce, gravy and beer. Sulfite free.
Class IV, E150d, Sulfite-Ammonia caramel contains both sulfites and ammonium and this is the sulfite you will find in soft drinks and colas.
Since caramel colors are made from the ingredients which are common allergens, like corn, wheat and lactose, this alone might be enough for the most sensitive people to get reactions. And when you add sulfite compounds to these allergens, there can be reactions even to trace amounts of E150b or E150d.
Food uses of Caustic Sulfite Caramel Color:
- Vegetable extracts