Coca-Cola and Pepsi change US recipe over caramel colouring concerns

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 9th March 2012

US beverage giants Coca-Cola and PepsiCo Inc. are adjusting the formula of their caramel colour following health concerns about the use of the additive 4-methylimidazole (4-MEI).

Coca-Cola Co. and PepsiCo Inc. are changing the way they make the caramel colouring as a result of a new California law that requires drinks containing a certain level of carcinogens to display a cancer warning label.

The companies said that the changes have already been made for drinks sold in California but the manufacturing process with be streamlined nationally.

American consumer group, the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), claimed this week that the use of 4-methylimidazole (4-MEI) in Coca-Cola and Pepsi products can cause cancer.

The CSPI said it collected and tested samples of Coca-Cola and Pepsi and found them to contain levels of 4-MEI above the 29-microgram benchmark permitted by the State of California.

In a media statement, CSPI executive director Michael Jacobson said, “Coke and Pepsi, with the acquiescence of the FDA, are needlessly exposing millions of Americans to a chemical that causes cancer.

“If companies can make brown food colouring 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 colouring,” he said.

In response, the American Beverages Industry issued a statement saying that the levels of 4-MEI used in the products are far too low to pose any sort of risk. The statement read, “This is nothing more than CSPI scare tactics, and their claims are outrageous. The science simply does not show that 4-MEI in foods or beverages is a threat to human health.

He added, “Findings of regulatory agencies worldwide, including the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, European Food Safety Authority and Health Canada, consider caramel colouring safe for use in foods and beverages.”