The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), a consumer health group in Washington, said in a statement that Coca-Cola, Pepsi-Cola, Diet Coke, and Diet Pepsi contain high levels of 4-methylimidazole (4-MI), a known animal carcinogen.
The chemical is responsible for the artificial caramel coloring used in colas. CSPI claims the artificial brown coloring in colas and some other products is made by reacting sugars with ammonia and sulfites under high pressure and temperatures. Chemical reactions result in the formation of 2-methylimidazole and 4 methylimidazole.
CSPI commissioned laboratory studies of Coca-Cola, Pepsi-Cola, Diet Coke, Diet Pepsi, Snapple Group Inc.’s Dr Pepper and Diet Dr Pepper, and Whole Foods 365 Cola from Washington-area stores.
“Coke and Pepsi, with the acquiescence of the FDA, are needlessly exposing millions of Americans to a chemical that causes cancer,” said CSPI executive director Michael F. Jacobson.
“The coloring is completely cosmetic, adding nothing to the flavor of the product. If companies can make brown food coloring that is carcinogen-free, the industry should use that. And industry seems to be moving in that direction. Otherwise, the FDA needs to protect consumers from this risk by banning the coloring.”
“This is nothing more than scare tactics,” the American Beverage Association said in a statement, calling the claims “outrageous.”
So we are to believe that CSPI has nothing better to do than to spend money on expensive lab tests so a non-profit organization can “scare” the public. Ask yourself which origination has a vested interest in distorting the truth — CSPI or the American Beverage Association?
Pepsi, Diet Coke and regular Coca-Cola had levels that were high enough to require a warning notice in the state of California, and the chemical was included on California’s list of carcinogens.
To put those levels into context, CSPI notes the state of California has a 29-microgram benchmark for 4-MI. Levels above that in a serving of food or beverage may be required to bear a warning notice.
Based on California’s risk model, CSPI estimates that the 4-MI in the Coke and Pepsi products tested is causing about 15,000 cancers in the U.S. population.
Pepsi told CSPI that it has switched to a coloring in California that contains much less 4-MI and plans to do the same in the rest of the country.
“When most people see ‘caramel coloring’ on food labels, they likely interpret that quite literally and assume the ingredient is similar to what you might get by gently melting sugar in a saucepan,” Jacobson said.
“The reality is quite different. Colorings made with the ammonia or ammonia-sulfite process contain carcinogens and don’t belong in the food supply. In any event, they shouldn’t be obscured by such an innocuous-sounding name as ‘caramel coloring.’”