17 February 2011

Can Cola Coloring Cause Cancer?

A major consumer group today called for a government ban on two types of caramel coloring used in colas, warning that the ingredients could cause cancer. The soft drink industry came out swinging, strongly objecting to the claim.

The National Toxicology program tested a contaminant in the coloring and found that it caused cancer in mice and possibly rats.

According to the CSPI, pure caramel is made by heating sugar, while the coloring found in cola like Pepsi and Coca-Cola is made by reacting sugars with ammonia. Jacobson said the chemicals the reaction produces have been proven by federal government tests to be carcinogens, a finding that the Coca-Cola Company vehemently disputes.
"CSPI's statement irresponsibly insinuates that the caramel used in our beverages is unsafe and maliciously raises cancer concerns among consumers," the company said in a statement. "This does a disservice to the very public for which CSPI purports to serve. In fact studies show that the caramel we use does not cause cancer."

There are currently four types of caramel coloring approved by the Food and Drug Administration and the CSPI wants the FDA to prohibit the two made with ammonia, 4-MEI and 2-MEI. David Schmidt, president & CEO of the International Food Information Council also challenged CSPI's statement.

CSPI acknowledges that obesity is still a greater health risk from the consumption of non-diet soda than cancer, but maintains there is still a risk.

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