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Caramel Coloring in Beverages and Foods Can Be Dangerous

By The Law Office of WT Johnson on January 23, 2014

cringing-man-holding-stomach-in-pain-wt-johnsonThe US Food and Drug Administration is currently testing foods including sodas for the chemical impurities found in caramel coloring and flavoring after a Consumer Reports study showed higher levels of dangerous substances in some products.

Consumer Reports Study

The Consumer Reports study showed levels of 4-methylimidazole or 4-MEI higher than 29 micrograms. At 29 micrograms, 4-MEI is considered potentially carcinogenic and must carry a warning label to comply with California law. There is no national standard for 4-MEI. The products Consumer Reports tested were Pepsi-One and Malta Goya.

For comparison, Pepsi-One tested from the New York area averaged 174 micrograms of 4-MEI. When tested, Coke, Diet Coke and Coke Zero averaged about 5 micrograms. Clear sodas have almost no measurable amount.

The FDA has studies the use of caramel as a food flavoring and colorant for decades and knows that 40-MEI is an impurity formed during the manufacturing process of sodas and other foods, but classified it as GRAS (generally recognized as safe).

Caramel coloring is generally derived from corn or wheat, which are known allergens, however, that information is not required on the labeling of sodas and foods that add it. The labels are required to state “caramel flavoring” or “artificial coloring.”

CNN reports the following:

“In a statement to Consumer Reports, PepsiCo Inc. said data indicates that the average person consumes less than one-third a can of diet soda per day; therefore, its product meets the California standard, even if a complete serving exceeds that limit.”

PepsiCo might actually believe their soda is safe because the average person throws two-thirds of the can away, or they might be drinking too much of their own product. Most soda drinkers are consuming more than four ounces per day. Beverage Digest, a trade publication that tracks the industry, says per capita consumption of carbonated soft drinks in the U.S. is 1.3 cans of soda a day.

US Department of Health and Human Services

While the FDA is claiming 4-MEI is safe for consumers, the National Toxicology Program, US Department of Health and Human Services has tested it and added 4-MEI to their carcinogenic list of chemicals. They conducted a two-year study of the effects on rats and mice. The rat study was inconclusive; however, the mice showed cancerous tumor growth after consuming 4-MEI.

Moreover, soda is not the only source of 4-MEI. It is found in a variety of foods that are consumed every day, so the question must be asked about the cumulative effects of consumption. 4-MEI is found in many condiments, processed foods, and sodas. In fact, the amount that the average American is actually consuming is unknown. It has been linked to cancer, and increased consumption can lead to an increased risk of cancer.

The companies that manufacture food and beverages need to be responsible for the products they profit from. Consumers are not the test mice. If you have been injured by a food or beverage product you need to seek the guidance of an experienced attorney.

Call The Law Offices of W.T. Johnson to schedule a free consultation today.

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