Coca Cola to lower 4-MI amid cancer concerns
Updated: 2012-03-09 12:20
WASHINGTON - Coca-Cola Co announced Thursday that it will lower the levels of the 4-methylimidazole (4-MI) chemical in sodas to meet requirements of California law that may have mandated a cancer warning label on bottles and cans.
The company will direct its caramel suppliers to modify their manufacturing processes to reduce the levels of the 4-MI, which can be formed during the cooking process and as a result may be found in trace amounts in many foods.
"The caramel color in all of our products has been, is and always will be safe," a Coca-Cola Co. spokesperson told US media, adding that they made the changes so they would not be subject to a "scientifically unfounded" warning.
The 4-MI chemical, which provides the caramel color in cola drinks, has been shown in lab studies to cause cancer in rats, but not in humans. California's Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment set a level of 29 micrograms of 4-MI before a product has to bear a cancer warning label. However, a study by the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) found that cola cans, including Coca-Cola, Pepsi-Cola, Snapple Group Inc's Dr. Pepper, and Whole Foods' 365 Cola, had levels near 140 micrograms in each 12-ounce can.
The consumer advocacy group in February filed a petition with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to ban the use of ammonia-sulfite caramel coloring. The FDA said the petition is being reviewed, but that the drinks were still safe.
"A consumer would have to consume well over a thousand cans of soda a day to reach the doses administered in the studies that have shown links to cancer in rodents," said Doug Karas, an FDA spokesman, in a statement.
"This is nothing more than CSPI scare tactics," the American Beverage Association also said in a statement. "In fact, finds of regulatory agencies worldwide ... consider caramel coloring safe for use in foods and beverages."
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