Recently, the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) announced that one of its studies revealed unsafe levels of 4-methylimidazole (“4-MI”), the ingredient used to make sodas carmel-colored. 4-MI is used in sodas such as Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Dr. Pepper, and Whole Foods’ 365 Cola.
Upon revealing its findings, CSPI asked the FDA to ban 4-MI. The FDA confirmed that the group’s petition is presently under review, though FDA representatives did not appear overly concerned. An FDA spokesman indicated that a consumer would have to drink over one thousand cans of soda per day to consume cancerous doses of 4-MI.
CSPI’s petition also pointed out that the levels of 4-MI found in the sodas were beyond the legal limits in California. Nonetheless, California added 4-MI to its list of carcinogens without supplying any studies linking 4-MI to cancer in humans. The only study in support of placing the chemical on the list was conducted using mice and rats.
Still though, manufacturers of sodas have requested that their suppliers of the caramel coloring reduce the amounts of 4-MI present just to remain on the safe side. Diana Garza-Ciarlante, a Coca-Cola representative, indicated that this change was not made because of any actual public health risks.
In a statement, the American Beverage Association defended the beverage manufacturers: “This is nothing more than CSPI scare tactics… In fact, findings of regulatory agencies worldwide … consider caramel coloring safe for use in foods and beverages.”