Coke Changed Caramel Color To Avoid Cancer Warning; Pepsi In Transition | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio

NPR : News

Filed Under:

Coke Changed Caramel Color To Avoid Cancer Warning; Pepsi In Transition

In 2011, the state of California created a problem for the soda industry.

The caramel color that Coke and Pepsi used to give colas that distinctive brown hue contained a chemical, 4-methylimidazole — 4-MEI — that is listed as a carcinogen by the state.

And in accordance with California's Proposition 65 law, the levels of 4-MEI found in sodas would have warranted a cancer warning label on every can sold in the state.

So, as I reported last year, Coke and Pepsi both said they would switch to a reformulated caramel color, one that did not contain 4-MEI.

Now, it appears that both companies have managed to complete this transition for sodas sold in the state of California.

But a new analysis by the Center for Environmental Health found that 10 of 10 samples of Pepsi products purchased nationwide during the month of June (in locations outside California) contained levels of 4-MEI that were about four to eight times higher than the safety thresholds set by California. The testing was conducted by Eurofins Analytical laboratory in Metairie, La.

In contrast, nine of the 10 samples of Coke products purchased in locations outside California contained little or no trace of 4-MEI.

"We applaud Coke," wrote Michael Green, executive director of the Center for Environmental Health, in a release announcing the findings.

"Pepsi's delay is inexplicable," Green added. "We urge the company to take swift action."

A Pepsi spokesperson tells The Salt that sodas sold throughout the U.S. should complete the transition to the new caramel coloring by February 2014. The company says efforts are also underway to switch the color formulation for sodas distributed globally.

"The FDA and other regulatory agencies around the world, including the European Food Safety Authority and Health Canada, consider our caramel coloring safe for use in foods and beverages," Pepsi Co. wrote in an email to The Salt.

So, are the higher levels of 4-MEI found in sodas using the old formulation a threat to human health? Well, consider the dose.

The FDA issued a statement last year, before the formulation of caramel coloring was changed, stating that a consumer would have to drink more than 1,000 cans of soda a day to reach the doses that have been shown to lead to cancer in rodents.

And the American Beverage Association wrote in a statement last year that "the science simply does not show that 4-MEI in foods or beverages is a threat to human health."

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

NPR

Peru's Pitmasters Bury Their Meat In The Earth, Inca-Style

Step up your summer grilling game by re-creating the ancient Peruvian way of cooking meat underground in your own backyard. It's called pachamanca, and it yields incredibly moist and smoky morsels.
WAMU 88.5

Food Packaging & Pricing

Have you ever popped open a bag of potato chips only to be disappointed by the number of crisps in your bag? It's not just you. To avoid raising prices, companies often increase their "nonfunctional slack fill" or the difference between the volume of product and its container. We talk about how food packaging affects your recipe and wallet.

WAMU 88.5

Environmental Outlook: The Growing Fossil Fuel Divestment Movement

A look at the growing fossil fuel divestment movement.

NPR

Flood Maps Can Get Much Sharper With A Little Supercomputing Oomph

Entrepreneurs are turning to Oak Ridge National Lab's supercomputer to make all sorts of things, including maps that are much more accurate in predicting how a neighborhood will fare in a flood.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.