Originally published June 28 2012
Cancer-causing chemical levels in Coke sold abroad remain excessive, U.S. group says
by J. D. Heyes
(NaturalNews) After narrowly escaping a federal claim of false advertising with a "pomegranate" drink that contained a barely legal amount of pomegranate juice, now Coca-Cola faces a new issue: cancer-causing ingredients in its namesake beverage.
According to a recent report from the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a U.S. watchdog organization, the version of Coke sold in several countries, including Kenya and Brazil, still contains an elevated level of a chemical that has been linked to cancer in animals - months after the beverage giant made changes to Coca-Cola sold in the state of California.
The group said samples of the soft drink were tested in nine countries, and each showed "alarming amounts" of the chemical 4-methylimidazole, or 4-MI, which is used in the soda's caramel coloring. The group said high levels of 4-MI have been linked to cancer in some animals.
In March Coca-Cola, along with beverage rival PepsiCo, said the companies had requested that suppliers of their caramel coloring change their manufacturing process to fall in line with a ballot initiative in California that sought to limit the public's exposure to toxic chemicals, Reuters reported.
High content levels remain in some U.S. markets too
Coke officials said the company would start in California, then expand the change in processing to reduce 4-MI content in its signature beverage over time, though they did not give a timeline.
Company execs have said again recently that the caramel coloring in all of its products is safe, repeating that Coca-Cola had asked suppliers to fall in line with California's labeling requirement.
And, true to form, CSPI said bottles of Coke the group sampled in California contained only four micrograms of 4-MI per 12 ounces of soda. The state requires a warning label if a product would lead consumers to ingest 30 micrograms or more daily.
But samples the group took from Coke products in Brazil contained 277 micrograms per 12 ounces. Soda tested in Kenya contained 177 micrograms.
Even some samples taken in the U.S. were high. A sample taken in Washington, D.C., for instance, contained 145 micrograms, the group said.
Michael Jacobson, CSPI's executive director, noted that consumers in other countries may typically drink less soda than those in the United States, so they may wind up with less exposure to the chemical after all.
"But now that we know it's possible to almost totally eliminate this carcinogen from colas, there's no excuse for Coca-Cola and other companies not to do so worldwide, and not just in California," he told Reuters, in a statement.
FDA considering ban
The group has provided a petition to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which the agency is considering, that would ban food production processes that create elevated levels of 4-MI. The agency went on to say that, for the time being, there did not appear to be any immediate or short-term danger to American consumers.
Earlier, a spokesman with the FDA said someone 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."
Following the CSPI report, Coke officials said they were continuing to work out the logistics for introducing a new caramel coloring process.
"We intend to expand the use of the modified caramel globally to allow us to streamline and simplify our supply chain, manufacturing, and distribution systems," said the company, in a statement.
4-MI cans, at high doses, caused rabbits, chicks and mice to convulse, according to published data. It was also the most likely cause of acute intoxication observed in cattle fed with ammoniated sugar-containing cattle feed supplements in the 1960s.
But the more pressing concern is its link to cancer. In January 2011, California set a daily intake limit of 16 micrograms as the "No Significant Risk Level."
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