In a report published Wednesday, CPSI urged the FDA to ban the caramel coloring used in cola products including Coke and Pepsi, claiming that “artificial brown coloring in colas and some other products is made by reacting sugars with ammonia and sulfites under high pressure and temperatures.” Not exactly appetizing. Even less so? “Chemical reactions result in the formation of 2-methylimidazole and 4 methylimidazole, which in government-conducted studies caused lung, liver, or thyroid cancer or leukemia in laboratory mice or rats,” CPSI says.
CPSI’s executive director, Dr. Michael Jacobson, took to The Huffington Post to expand on his group’s message. Citing California’s aggressive stance on clear labeling of toxic and potentially carcinogenic chemicals, Jacobson says that “[s]cientists at the University of California at Davis recently found significant levels of 4 methylimidazole in colas that far exceeds what the state considers to be safe. This sets the stage for warning labels on diet and regular Coke and Pepsi and many other soft drinks unless the companies shift to safer colorings. … Considering that the purpose of this contaminated caramel coloring is purely cosmetic, we hope the FDA quickly acts to protect Americans from an unnecessary cancer risk.”
So, cancer in your cola – scary stuff, right? Not so fast, says the American Beverage Association. “Consumers can take confidence in the fact that people have been safely drinking colas for more than a century, as well as consuming the wide variety of foods and beverages containing caramel coloring,” they say in their response. “This petition is not based on sound science and is unnecessarily raising the fears of consumers.”
That may be true, but to be fair, Coca-Cola has tweaked its recipe a bit since the days when it was made with cocaine. Of course, unless you have CIA-level clearance, you don’t stand even a tiny chance of learning exactly how the secret Coca-Cola recipe has – or hasn’t – changed.