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Carcinogen Found in Coke, Pepsi Recipe Forces Changes

A carcinogen found in the caramel coloring used in popular sodas like Coca-Cola and Pepsi has caused the manufacturers to remove it from their recipesBy Kristin Sidorov
Coca-Cola has been a part of American culture for decades. It’s considered a classic, an icon, and perhaps that’s why it’s so troubling that one of its ingredients has recently been added to a list of known carcinogens. We all know that soda can be unhealthy, but cancerous, too?

That’s debatable, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The ingredient in question, 4-methylimidazole (4-MI), is used to help give colas their characteristic caramel color. In January, 4-MI was added to California’s list of carcinogenic chemicals after studies found a correlation between it and cancer in rodents. While this finding’s translation to humans is unreliable at best, 4-MI’s addition to the list nonetheless imposed a requirement on cola’s producers to include a cancer warning label on all products containing the ingredient.

As a result, Coca-Cola Co. and PepsiCo Inc. are both making changes to their soda formulas with lower levels of 4-MI that will meet California’s new standards and avoid cancer warnings, but they promise they won’t be altering those classic, world-famous cola recipes and say that consumers won’t detect a difference.

But really, does 4-MI pose a serious threat to our health?

The Center for Science in the Public Interest has petitioned the FDA to prohibit the use of ammonia-sulfite caramel coloring, but the American Beverage Association and the FDA aren’t convinced. The fact is, the science simply doesn’t back up the claims. The amount of 4-MI found in one can of soda is scant compared to the high levels administered in the studies shown linking cancer to rodents. A person would need to consumer over a thousand sodas per day to even come close.

Even so, reducing the levels of 4-MI in colas isn’t a bad idea, and for the most part, people seem accepting of the compromise, as long as both Coke and Pepsi keep the timeless flavor that loyal consumers love.

Tell Us: Should soda producers eliminate caramel coloring? Will you still buy your favorite cola?

Photo courtesy of Dano


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