Saturday, March 10, 2012
Does caramel coloring cause cancer?
Does caramel coloring cause cancer? Cola industry says claim falls flat This week, the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a nonprofit Washington-based watchdog group on nutrition and food safety, once again pushed the FDA to look at the chemicals – or “caramel coloring” – that turn cola brown. The CSPI’s petition asks the FDA to ban caramel colorings that are produced by an ammonia or ammonia-sulfite process and contain 2-methylimidazole (2-MI) and 4-methylimidazole (4-MI). The petition, originally filed on February 16, 2011, claims both 2-MI and 4-MI are “carcinogenic in animal studies.” The animal studies linking 4-MI to cancer in lab mice and rats prompted the state of California to officially list 4-MI as a carcinogen on January 7, 2011, under California’s Proposition 65, the Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986. There have been no studies thus far on the chemicals’ risk to humans. The most recent call to arms from the CSPI comes after the watchdog group found a sampling of colas, including Coca-Cola, Diet Coke, Pepsi and Diet Pepsi, surpassed the allotted 29 milligrams of 4-MI per day under Proposition 65. CSPI also urged the FDA to change the “caramel coloring” label to “chemically modified caramel coloring” or “ammonia-sulfite process caramel coloring” to avoid any confusion with consumers over the coloring’s makeup. “When most people see ‘caramel coloring’ on food labels, they likely interpret that quite literally and assume the ingredient is similar to what you might get by gently melting sugar in a saucepan,” said CSPI Executive Director Michael F. Jacobson in a public statement.