Coke Modifies Coloring to Avoid Cancer Label California cracks down on substance in caramel additive By Dustin Lushing, Newser Staff Posted Mar 7, 2012 4:59 PM CST 20 comments Comments In this 2011 file photo, cases of Coca-Cola are seen on a counter at a store in West Bath, Maine. (AP Photo/Pat Wellenbach, File) (Newser) – Coca-Cola has begun switching to a new caramel coloring—it won't be a noticeable change—to avoid being forced to slap cancer warnings on its soda in California. The chemical that delivers the distinctive color includes a substance called 4-methylimidazole, or 4-MI. In 2011, California decreed that certain levels of 4-MI were carcinogenic. Coke could either modify its formula or print the cancer warnings, reports NPR. "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," says a spokeswoman. Coke insists its product is and always has been safe, and the FDA notes that someone would have to drink more than 1,000 cans a day to reach dangerous levels of 4-MI. Click for the full story and NPR's audio version.