FDA Petitioned to Ban Caramel Coloring in Cola
The caramel coloring commonly used to color Coca-Cola and Pepsi could cause cancer, according to the Center for Science in the Public Interest WordsInLink (CSPI).
The CSPI filed a petition with the FDA calling for a ban on two froms of caramel coloring, siting two potentially carcinogenic chemcials created in the synthetic production of this common ingredient.
Some forms of caramel coloring is manufactured by reacting sugars with ammonia and sulfites under high pressure and temperature. This process results in two products, 2-methylimidazole (2-MEI) and 4-methylimidazole (4-MEI), which have been linked to cancer in animal studies.
There four types of caramel coloring, two of which are synthesized with ammonia and two that are made without. The ban would only affect with ammonia.
Caramel coloring is not essential for soda's taste or stability, but instead serve a purely asethetic purpose. Alternative colorings, such as natural dyes made via fruit or vegetable dyes, exist that could replace these potentially harmful compounds. Sodas could also be clear, as opposed to dyed brown, to avoid potential carcinogenic exposure.
California has already added 4-MEI to a list of chemicals that are known to cause cancer. Proposition 65 would require that substances that have more than 16 micrograms of 4-MEI would have to bear a cancer warning label. As a comparison, popular soft drinks contain 200 micrograms of 4-MEI.
These two compounds are not potent carcinogens, and even the CSPI asserts that the calories and sugar in these sodas are more detrimental to consumers health in the immediate future.
Representative from Coca-Cola and the beverage industry counter that these studies were done in mice and rodents, and thus may not be applicable to humans. No studies have tied these two compounds to cancer in humans.
In addition, according to the American Beverage Association WordsInLink 2-MEI and 4-MEI are ubiquitous and found in a variety of foods.
Over the years CSPI has been involved in accurate labeling of artificial food dyes, salt, nitrate and sulfite preservatives, partially hydrogenated vegetable oil and Olestra.