The world's largest soft drink manufacturers are making some changes -- and it's not completely by choice. Coca-Cola and Pepsi will change the way they make the caramel coloring used in their California-sold signature products. The move is an attempt to avoid a state law requiring cancer warning labels.
The Coke-cancer connection has long been part of the public debate, but last year the state took it one step further. California added 4-methylimidazole to its list of known carcinogens. As a result, any product containing more than 29 micrograms of the chemical must include a cancer warning label.
Coke and Pepsi have as much as 4.8 times that amount in a single can, according to the Vancouver Sun. The chemical is made by heating sugar with ammonia and sulphites, explains the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI). This is how the soda companies have traditionally made the tasteless caramel coloring.
CSPI, concerned by the Coke-cancer research, has repeatedly asked the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to ban the chemical. But the agency disagrees, reports NPR, and has said that "a consumer would have to consume well over a thousand cans of soda a day to reach the doses administered in the studies that have shown links to cancer in rodents."
Those who still worry about the Coke-cancer connection might find some solace in the California law. Though Coca-Cola and Pepsi will initially only change the chemical makeup of its caramel coloring in California, the companies plan to eventually make the change nation-wide.