June 26, 2012
WASHINGTONA new report released by the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) found levels of the cancer-causing chemical 4-methylimidizole (4-MI) in Coca-Cola vary worldwide. According to the study, which will be published in a future issue of the International Journal of Occupational and Environmental Health, Coke sold in California contain the least amount of 4-MI, while Coke products sold in Brazil contain the highest amounts per 12 fluid ounces.
4-MI forms in foods such as caramel (which adds color and flavor to many foods and beverages) during the heating, roasting or cooking process. Coca-Cola began using a less-contaminated caramel coloring earlier this year in California after the state required a cancer-warning notice on soft drinks with excessive levels of 4-MI.
Fortunately, people in China, Japan, Kenya, and some other countries drink much less soda than we Americans do, so their exposure to this dangerous chemical is proportionately lower," said CSPI executive director Michael F. Jacobson. But now that we know its possible to almost totally eliminate this carcinogen from colas, theres no excuse for Coca-Cola and other companies not to do so worldwide, and not just in California."
CSPI obtained the Coca-Cola from consumer advocates or others in the countries represented in this study. Test results revealed Coca-Cola obtained from Brazil had 267 micrograms (mcg) of the carcinogen per 12 fluid ounces (355 ml). Coca-Cola from Kenya had 177 mcg per 12 ounces. Cokes marketed in Canada, the United Arab Emirates, Mexico and the United Kingdom had between 144 mcg and 160 mcg per 12 ounces. Coke from China had 56 mcg, and samples from Japan had 72 mcg. Coca-Cola purchased in the District of Columbia, had 144 mcg per 12 fluid ounces, while Cokes bought in California contained only 4 mcg.
The state of California requires a cancer-warning label if a food would lead to people consuming 30 mcg or more of 4-MI per day. Thus, people drinking one 12-ounce soda per day would ingest that much if the soda contained 30 mcg or more of 4-MI. The state estimates that amount of 4-MI would cause cancer in one in 100,000 people over their lifetimes.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) restricts carcinogenic contaminants in food to lower levelsamounts that would not cause more than one cancer per million people. If the FDA applied its standard, a Coke would have to have under 3 mcg of 4-MI. Coca-Cola marketed in California is close to meeting that standard, but Cokes in most other countries, even allowing for lower consumption in most countries, greatly exceed that standard.
In March, CSPI reiterated its 2011 request for FDA to revoke its authorization for caramel colorings that contain 4-MI, and in the interim to change the name of the additive to ammonia-sulfite process caramel coloring" or chemically modified caramel coloring" for labeling purposes.
The American Beverage Association responded to the CSPI news regarding the safety of 4-MEI, with the following statement: "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. In fact, findings of regulatory agencies worldwide, including the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, European Food Safety Authority and Health Canada, consider caramel coloring safe for use in foods and beverages. CSPI fraudulently claims to be operating in the interest of the public's health when it is clear its only motivation is to scare the American people."
In 2011, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) completed a safety review of caramel colors and concluded they are not carcinogenic or genotoxic and there is no evidence to show that they have any adverse effects on human reproduction or for the developing child.
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