Pepsi and Coca Cola are changing their formulas. No, not to gain more market share, but to prevent having to slap a “Cancer Causing” label on their soda bottles.
It has been over a year since the organization Center for Science in the Public Interest petitioned the FDA to ban the use of the artificial caramel coloring that has two cancer causing chemicals associated with it. On February 16, 2011 they made a formal submission to the FDA.
The companies have announced that while they deny their process to build the artificial brown colouring in their sodas have cancer causing agents, they are complying with a California law that requires food products that contain 2-methylimidazole and 4-methylimidazole to bear cancer warnings.
In keeping with Coca Cola’s stance that their production of caramel colouring is safe and any by-products of that process are safe and comply with laws in Europe, the formula there will remain the same. Pepsico’s home page does not mention the brouhaha swirling around the soft drink manufacturers.
In their submission to the FDA last year the Center for Science in the Public Interest cited research that showed a significant increase in cancers in lab animals exposed to 4-M. These included lung, liver, thyroid cancers and leukemias. The National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health has published work regarding the results of testing lab rats with this substance. The publication date for this was January 2008.
The artificial brown colouring that gives colas their iconic colouring is not caramel as many know it. When making caramel, sugar is heated slowly until it melts and turns a brown colour. The industrial production of some caramel colourings uses corn sugars, ammonia and sulfites in an industrial process that produces the carcinogens in a small, but detectable amount.
Cola drinks are popular around the world. Coca-Cola and Pepsico brands are globally recognized. While the danger of developing cancers from drinking these fizzy drinks is probably very small, tiny insults to the body over a long period of time can add up to some very big effects. I’m not a big soda drinker any more, but I probably had my first Coca Cola around age six. Coke and Pepsi diet drinks helped me maintain weight as a young adult and as I grew older rum and coke seemed a good way to end the work day. In other words I have had a lifetime of consuming cola drinks. In fact I have a bottle of Diet Coke in my pantry right now. I’ll be looking at the stuff with a little less trust from now on.