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Concerns Over Cancer-Causing Cola Coloring

The Center for Science in the Public Interest sent a letter to the FDA on Monday detailing concerns about a compound used to give cola its distinctive look.

Coca cola has already begun reformulating their caramel coloring to avoid warning labels in the state of California.

The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) presented startling news to the FDA this week: Coke and Pepsi contain elevated levels of known a carcinogen.

Over The Legal Limit

The chemicals 2-methylimidazole (2-MI) and 4-methylimidazole (4-MI) — which are responsible for cola’s characteristic brown hue — have been proven to cause an array of cancers in rodents.

CSPI first petitioned the FDA to prohibit these substances in 2011, but the situation escalated last Monday when the organization reported finding concentrations of 4-MI in Coke and Pepsi samples that exceeded California’s legal limit by nearly five times.

Damage Control

While The American Beverage Association insists the sodas pose no threat to consumers, Coke has begun work on reformulation in order to avoid having to print a warning label on cans and bottles in the Golden State.

FDA spokesman Douglas Karas points out someone would have to drink over a thousand cans of soda per day to match the dosages administered to the lab rats.

Read More:

  • Consumer group finds cancer-causing chemical in colas (Los Angeles Times)
  • Coca-Cola Modifies Caramel Color To Avoid Cancer Warning Label (NPR)
  • VIDEO: Crystal Pepsi commercial (YouTube)


Liz Leslie

Liz Leslie is a journalist based in Chicago. When she's not writing about food, she's likely eating food. Or dreaming about food.

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