Health Scares in the News Part 10

Watch out, America, it’s the attack of the Killer Cola! Would you buy a soft drink that came with a cancer warning? Executives at PepsiCo and Coca-Cola don’t want to find out. They are working feverishly to avoid the state of California’s new requirement that foods and beverages that contain methylimidazole (4-MI) must be labeled as potentially cancer-causing. The substance under the spotlight is found in trace amounts in the caramel coloring used to give dark soft drinks their beloved brownish golden color. Manufacturers of caramel color that supply the soda industry will tweak their production process to eliminate this chemical. So, Pepsi and Coke will remain free of warning labels.

Like many health scares that end up creating changes in legislation, this one isn’t based on any real evidence of harm to humans. The studies conducted so far only show an increase in tumor activity in rodents – and only when 4-MI is consumed in staggering amounts. The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) argued that the amount found in a can of soda far exceeds the recommended safe limit for human exposure. The FDA disagreed, stating that the levels of 4-MI found in soda are far too low to pose any actual health risk.

Nevertheless, the labeling requirement made it into law and soft drink companies aren’t going to fight it. To dig in their heels would only draw attention to some of the real risks associated with chugging down sugary beverages all day every day (as many Americans do). It’s a much better strategy to protest the law on principle while complying in practice. A couple of years from now, no one will even remember that caramel coloring used to have a different set of unpronounceable ingredients. As far as soft drink conglomerates are concerned, the less people think about how much soda they drink, the better. Hey, this could be the start of a brand new scare – the soda pop conspiracy!

Tags: Health and Beauty