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Fri Dec 19 11:22:11 SAST 2014

Consumer group claims Coke and Pepsi can cause cancer

AFP Relaxnews | 07 March, 2012 16:11
Cans of Coca-Cola are shown on a countertop at Chuck's Beverage and Wine in Chagrin Falls, Ohio on Monday, Oct. 19, 2009. Coca-Cola says its third-quarter profit rose less than 1 percent, as sales fell as consumers continued to limit soft drink purchases and the stronger dollar took a toll on revenue.(AP Photo/Amy Sancetta)
Cans of Coca-Cola.
Image by: Amy Sancetta

A consumer's group in the US says it's found a known animal carcinogen in sodas like Coca-Cola and Pepsi which contain caramel colouring.

According to the lab results of The Centre for Science in the Public Interest, sodas like Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Diet Coke and Diet Pepsi contain high levels of 4-methylimidazole (4-MI), a byproduct of the ammonia-sulfite caramel colouring which is used to give sodas their brown hue.

"When most people see 'caramel colouring' on food labels, they likely interpret that quite literally and assume the ingredient is similar to what you might get by gently melting sugar in a saucepan," said CSPI executive director Michael Jacobson in a statement March 5.

"The reality is quite different. Colourings made with the ammonia or ammonia-sulfite process contain carcinogens and don't belong in the food supply."

For their lab tests, the group collected different samples from Coca-Cola and Pepsi, and measured the levels of 4-MI in each can.

Cans of Pepsi products clocked in at between 145 to 153 micrograms (mcg) of 4-MI, while Coca-Cola products clocked in at between 113 mcg to 146 mcg.

But in California, the 4-MI benchmark is 29 mcg, the CSPI points out, and any foods and beverages that contain levels above that threshold are considered to increase a person's risk of developing cancer over their lifetime.

This is the CSPI's second attempt at getting the US Food and Drug Administration to ban ammonia-sulfite caramel colouring. The group also appealed to the government with the same request last year.

Meanwhile, the American Beverage Association (ABA) struck back on Monday, issuing a statement that called the report "outrageous" and nothing more than "scare tactics".

Pointing out that regulatory agencies around the world  including the European Food Safety Authority and Health Canada consider caramel colouring safe for use in foods and beverages, the ABA said, "The science simply does not show that 4-MEI in foods or beverages is a threat to human health."

Caramel colour is also used in beer, chocolate, cookies, spirits and liquors, custards, potato chips, dessert mixes, doughnuts, fruit preserves and gravy.

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