Soda Companies Consider Cancer Risk of Caramel Coloring
If some public-health advocates have their way, sodas could become the cigarettes of food. Doctors already dislike the sugary drinks for their teeth-dissolving properties and for the role they may play in childhood obesity. There’s a constant struggle to get soda vending machines out of public schools, with administrators often forced to choose between losing sponsorship money from big soda companies and dealing with overcaffeinated, less healthy kids. Given the sheer size of the American soda industry — 9.4 billion cases of soft drinks were sold in the U.S. in 2009 — it’s not a war that will end anytime soon. Especially if a certain C word starts getting thrown around.
That’s what the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) is doing. The consumer watchdog group yesterday wrote a letter to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) calling on officials to ban the use of caramel coloring — the additive that makes cola brown — in soft drinks on the grounds that the chemicals are a possible cancer risk. In the letter to FDA administrator Margaret Hamburg, CSPI executive director Michael Jacobson argued that recent lab analyses show that levels of 4-methylimidazole (4-MI) — which, along with 2-methylimidazole, is formed when sugar is mixed with ammonia and sulfates to create caramel coloring — in 12-oz. servings of soda exceed by nearly five times the 29-microgram limit recommended by the state of California.