The latest from Consumer Reports reveals that some sodas containing caramel color may contain a potential carcinogen, 4-methylimidazole, in quantities greater than previously believed.
While word of the potential carcinogen in caramel color is not news in itself, the report indicates that the amount found in tested samples were in excess of the threshold at which California law requires a product’s label to bear a consumer health warning.
In recent Consumer Reports’ tests, each of the 12-ounce samples of Pepsi One and Malta Goya had more than 29 micrograms per can or bottle. While we cannot say that this violates California’s Prop 65, we believe that these levels are too high, and we have asked the California Attorney General to investigate.
“We are concerned about both the levels of 4-MeI we found in many of the soft drinks tested and the variations observed among brands, especially given the widespread consumption of these types of beverages,” said Dr. Urvashi Rangan, a Consumer Reports toxicologist, in a statement.
As a result of the tests, Consumer Reports says they are petitioning the Food and Drug Administration to set a federal standard for 4-MeI and to require manufacturers to list the specific type of caramel color they use on their ingredient lists. The reason why? Of the four types of caramel coloring, only two made with ammonia can contain 4-methylimidazole. Consumer Reports says that manufacturers using the phrase “artificial color” interchangeably with “caramel color” are deceiving their consumers.
“Europe has labeling requirements and consumers in the United States should have the right to make an informed choice about what they are drinking and eating,” says Dr. Rangan.
According to Consumer Reports, while the FDA appreciated the heads-up, “it does not believe that 4-MeI from caramel color at levels currently in food pose a risk.”
Concerned citizens are urged to express their feelings on caramel color to the FCA by way of Consumers Union’s Web site, NotInMyFood.org.