4-methylimidazole (4-MEI), a byproduct of the ‘caramel color’ found in many sodas, may be responsible for cancer
According to public health researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, the popular “caramel color” ingredient in soda may be responsible for cancer.
Researchers analyzed Consumer Reports-published public soda consumption data to characterize consumers’ exposure to 4-methylimidazole (4-MEI), a byproduct of the caramel coloring found in soda, and found unacceptable levels of exposure to the carcinogen among public soft drink consumers.
“Soft drink consumers are being exposed to an avoidable and unnecessary cancer risk from an ingredient that is being added to these beverages simply for aesthetic purposes,” says Keeve Nachman, PhD, senior author of the study and director of the Food Production and Public Health Program at the CLF and an assistant professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. “This unnecessary exposure poses a threat to public health and raises questions about the continued use of caramel coloring in soda”…
While the 2014 study of the 110 samples of soda brands was not large enough to recommend one brand over another or draw conclusions about specific brands, results indicated that levels of 4-MEI could vary substantially across samples, even for the same type of beverage. “For example, for diet colas, certain samples had higher or more variable levels of the compound, while other samples had very low concentrations,” says Tyler Smith, lead author of the study and a program officer with the CLF…
“This new analysis underscores our belief that people consume significant amounts of soda that unnecessarily elevate their risk of cancer over the course of a lifetime,” says Urvashi Rangan, PhD, executive director for Consumer Reports’ Food Safety and Sustainability Center. “We believe beverage makers and the government should take the steps needed to protect public health.”
Consumer Reports has petitioned the FDA to set limits on caramel color in soda. Oddly, caramel color levels vary by state—California soft drinks apparently have far lower levels than New York, for instance.
Hopefully these harmful carcinogens will be quickly regulated… but it’s not like soda isn’t bad for you overall anyway. Might be time to stop chugging so much.