Cancerous Cola? The New Ruling on Caramel Color and Cancer
Are you an avid Coke or Pepsi drinker? Instead of starting your day with a cup of hot coffee, do you reach for your 12-pack for a caffeine boost instead? You’ve heard us talk about the dangers of sugar, and soda, and by now you may have started to think that ingesting the combination of the two is downright suicide. But aside from all of that, there’s a new danger on the prowl.
OK, yes, that’s a mouth-full right there. But it’s worth paying attention to, especially when it comes to your health . . . and to cancer.
Well, if you have recently had any sort of exposure to news and media outlets (and seriously, who doesn’t?), you have probably heard about Coca-Cola and how it is changing its famous drink's recipe due to concern over the compound that causes cola's signature caramel color. This compound is known in the scientific world as 4-methylimidazole, but to the rest of us it is better known as 4-MEI or simply 4-MI. The compound is also found in things like soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, wine, ammoniated molasses, and caramel-colored syrups.
So, what exactly is all of the hubbub surrounding this caramel color?
Behind all of it is the Center for Science in the Public Interest, or CSPI. They are the consumer watchdog group that exposed just how unhealthy movie theater popcorn is, and began the food industry's change from cooking in animal fats to Trans fats a few decades ago. Once it was found that Trans fats were actually worse than animal fats, they reverted back to their old position and condemned the use of Trans fats in cooking.
The group certainly has the public consumer's health in mind, even though sometimes it may cause a bit of an uproar. In this case, it sent the public into a frenzy when it announced that it had found high enough levels of 4-MI to cause cancer. As a result, California added the compound to its list of known carcinogens, which meant that cola manufacturers such as Pepsi and Coke would have to carry cancer warning labels.
Avoiding a Cancer Label
Clearly, the American Beverage Association realized that having cancer labels on your products was bad for business, and Coca Cola promptly announced that they were lowering the levels of 4-MI in their product , while still retaining the familiar taste we all enjoy. With the announcement, Coke explained that they were only changing it to avoid the label in California, and that their products have always been safe, and will continue to be safe.
BUT . . . If they are so safe, why would the CSPI go after them with such claims?
It has long been known that 4-MI can cause cancer, stillbirths and tumors in humans and mice, but what is not so well known is that the danger is only present when 4-MI is taken in high doses. Do any of the cola sodas have this much of the cancerous compound? Actually, if you truly wanted to put yourself at risk of 4-MI's carcinogenic effects, you would have to consume over 1,000 cans of cola each day for several days.
Aside from California, no other regulatory agency believes that 4-MI poses a cancer risk for humans. This is great news for both soda manufacturers and soda lovers, of course. But on the other side of the coin . . . do you really want to be putting something in your body that causes cancer at any level?
Something to think about the next time you reach for that morning source of jolt.