Most Common Soda Color Could Pose Health Risk

FDA taking closer look at caramel color

By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff

Posted Jan 24, 2014 1:40 AM CST | Updated Jan 24, 2014 5:40 AM CST

(Newser) – The caramel color widely used in soft drinks contains a chemical that could be dangerous to your health but isn't listed in the ingredients, a Consumer Reports investigation finds. Some kinds of caramel color—the world's most widely used food coloring—contain a potentially carcinogenic chemical known as 4-Mel, sometimes in levels high enough to warrant putting a warning label on cans of soda, tests on leading brands revealed. Samples of sodas including Pepsi were above the level believed to have a 1-in-100,000 risk of causing cancer, while Coke had much lower levels.

"There is no reason why consumers need to be exposed to this avoidable and unnecessary risk that can stem from coloring food and beverages brown," a Consumer Reports toxicologist says. Only two of the four types of caramel color contain 4-Mel, so the consumer advocates have urged the FDA to both set a federal standard for the chemical and require manufacturers to specify what kind of caramel color they are using. The FDA says the report has spurred it to take a closer look at caramel color to see if regulatory action is needed, Food Safety News reports.

The FDA says it is conducting new studies of the safety of caramel coloring in soft drinks and other foods, even though previous research has shown no identifiable health risk.
The FDA says it is conducting new studies of the safety of caramel coloring in soft drinks and other foods, even though previous research has shown no identifiable health risk.   (AP Photo/J. David Ake)
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Manufacturers have lower 4-MeI alternatives available to them. Ideally there would be no 4-MeI in food. - Consumer Reports toxicologist
Urvasnhi Ranga

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