An environmental group has made allegations that the caramel coloring that is used in Pepsi continues to contain a significant amount of carcinogen, which is enough to cause concern among many watchdog groups. The watchdog group The Center for Environmental Health said that during testing they found that Coca-Cola products no longer test positive for the chemical, but Pepsi products sold outside California still do contain it.
In March PepsiCo and Coca-Cola said their formulas would be adjusted accordingly on the nationwide level after California passed a law mandating that drinks containing a certain level of carcinogens carry a cancer warning label. The changes were specifically made for drinks that were sold in California when the law was passed.
The chemical in question is 4-methylimidazole, also known as 4-Mel, which can form during the cooking process. The end result is that the chemical can be found in trace amounts in many foods. Pepsi has responded by saying its caramel color suppliers are working to change their manufacturing process to cut the amount of 4-Mel in its caramel. They indicated the process in complete in California and will be complete by February 2014 in the rest of the country. Pepsi has indicated that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and other regulatory agencies located internationally have found the caramel coloring used in Pepsi to be safe.
Coca-Cola has transitioned into using a modified caramel in all U.S. markets that does not contain the chemical, so it would not have to keep inventory separate for different locations, according to reports. Coca-Cola has said all of the company’s products, regardless of whether or not they have modified caramel, are safe for consumption.
The watchdog group had contracted with Eurofins Analystical Laboratory in Metairie, La., to test the products from California in May then from across the country in June. The lab did not find the chemical in any California products, and it found none of the chemical in 9 out of 10 Coke products from outside the state of California. However, it reports that it found levels of 4-Mel that are four to eight times higher than California’s permitted safety levels in all 10 Pepsi products that were purchased in other states, according to the Center for Environmental Health.
According to reports, trace amounts of 4-Mel have not been linked to cancer in humans. The American Beverage Association has indicated that California added caramel coloring to its list of carcinogens with the lack of any studies showing that it could cause cancer in humans. It noted that it was added to the list based on a single study that was done on lab mice and rats.
The FDA has said the consumer would have to drink more than 1,000 cans of soda containing the chemical each day to reach the doses administered that showed links to cancer in rodents.
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