When it comes to changing food recipes, both Coke and Pepsi are very resistant to change. Coca-Cola guards their secret formula like it is the nuclear football, while Pepsi is designing its own salt to preserve the taste of its drinks. Coke learned their lesson the hard way with New Coke, and Pepsi took the lesson of Crystal Pepsi to heart. However, both Coke and Pepsi will be changing their formula to avoid cancer warning labels on their products. The culprit is 4-methylimidazole (4-MI or 4-MEI), a chemical found in the caramel color used to give sodas their familiar brown appearance. Let’s call it the Caramel Cancer Conundrum.
“The company did make the decision to ask its caramel suppliers to make the necessary manufacturing process modifications to meet the requirement of the State of California,” Coca-Cola spokesperson Ben Scheilder told NPR. “Unlike CSPI, The Coca-Cola Company deals in hard facts. Fact: The body of science about 4-MEI in foods or beverages does not support the erroneous allegations that CSPI would like the public to believe. The 4-MEI levels in our products pose no health or safety risks. Outside of California, no regulatory agency concerned with protecting the public’s health has stated that 4-MEI is a human carcinogen. The caramel color in all of our ingredients has been, is and always will be safe. That is a fact.”
According to the FDA, 4-MI is perfectly safe for human consumption. In fact, they recently turned down the CSPI’s request to have 4-MI reclassified as a carcinogen twice now, but somehow the company was able to convince the state of California that the food additive, which is found in the caramel color used by soda manufacturers, is a carcinogen. Hence, to avoid losing sales in the biggest state of the union, both Coke and Pepsico are changing their caramel color recipes.
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