ABC News is reporting that soft drink giants Coca-Cola and Pepsi are changing their recipes in the United States, to avoid having their cans slapped with a cancer warning label.
Although the exact formula for the drinks is a closely guarded secret, health officials say the caramel coloring in the drinks contains trace amounts of 4-methylimidazole (4-MEI), a chemical that is listed as a carcinogen in California.
“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,” Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) executive director Michael F. Jacobson told the Associated Press.
“The reality is quite different. Colorings made with the ammonia or ammonia-sulfite process contain carcinogens and don’t belong in the food supply.”
The American Beverage Association responded to the CSPI claims with a statement saying that soda drinkers will not notice a difference in the products and should not be worried about health concerns.
“This is nothing more than CSPI scare tactics, and their claims are outrageous. The science simply does not show that 4-MEI foods or beverages is a threat to human health,” the ABA’s statement said.
And the FDA seems to agree.
FDA spokesman Douglas Karas wrote in a statement that the FDA is currently reviewing the CSPI petition, but “it is important to understand that a consumer would have to consume well over a thousand cans of soda a day to reach the doses administered in the studies that have shown links to cancer in rodents.”
According to MSN, Coke and Pepsi have already altered the recipes of drinks sold in California, to reduce the levels of 4-MEI and avoid the cancer warning labels.
“While we believe that there is no public health risk that justifies any such change, we did ask our caramel suppliers to take this step so that our products would not be subject to the requirement of a scientifically unfounded warning,” Garza-Ciarlante, a spokeswoman for Coke, told the AP.
The two companies, which account for about 90 percent of all soda creation in the country, say the changes will be rolled out across the US to make manufacturing the drinks more efficient.
Despite the recipe changes, Coke and Pepsi assure consumers that their drinks will still be packed with all the sugar and empty calories as usual.
For more on the recent Coke and Pepsi recipe changes, check out the clip below: