Warning: Drinking This Could Cause Cancer…

By on January 25, 2014
As if there weren’t enough reasons to stop drinking soda, a report from Consumer Reports says there’s an even bigger reason to drop the habit: It contains an ingredient that causes cancer.

Called 4-methylimidazol, or 4-MeI, this key chemical is commonly used to darken soft drinks–but in excess, can increase a person’s risk of cancer.

Urvashi Rangan, Ph.D., a toxicologist and executive director of Consumer Reports’ Food Safety & Sustainability Center, says this poses an unnecessary health risk to many consumers.

“There’s no reason why consumers should be exposed to an avoidable and unnecessary risk that can stem from coloring food brown,” says Rangan. “Manufacturers have lower 4-MeI alternatives available to them. Ideally there would be no 4-MeI in food.”

While no federal guidelines currently exist prohibiting the amount of 4-MeI manufacturers can use in food and beverage products, California requires manufacturers to label any products that exceed the amount considered safe for human consumption–in this case, 29 micrograms. But even then, The California Office of Environmental Health says it considers this a safe guideline because it only causes cancer in 1 per 100,000 persons.

Several soda manufacturers exceeded these guidelines according to testing done by Consumer Reports, however, raising serious concerns about the safety of soda products.

“It’s possible to get more than 29 micrograms of 4-MeI in one can of some of the drinks we tested,” says Rangan. “And even if your choice of soft drink contains half that amount, many people have more than one can per day.”

As part of their analysis, which was published on Consumer Reports’ website earlier this week, researchers gathered 81 cans and bottles of sodas from five different manufacturers in California and New York between April and September 2013. Researchers then tested how much 4-MeI was present in these sodas. In December 2013, they repeated the same process, buying additional sodas from these regions and then testing the levels of 4-MeI present.

Shockingly enough, during their first analysis, some of these sodas carried an average of 174 micrograms of 4-MeI per can–six times over California’s recommended guidelines. However, these levels seemed to be reduced during their second round of testing.

“In our initial testing, some of the other brands we bought in California had average levels around or below 29 micrograms per can, but the New York area samples of those same brands tested much higher,” writes Consumer Reports in their analysis. ” For example, regular Pepsi from the New York area averaged 174 micrograms in the first test and 32 micrograms in the second.”

In light of their recent findings, Consumer Reports says it has reported their study to the California Attorney General’s office, as well as contacted the Food and Drug Administration to pass more rigorous standards on the use of such a carcinogen. Oddly enough, however, the FDA maintains that it does not believe 4-MeI poses a serious safety risk.

What You Should Do

To keep cancer at bay, consider putting down your soda can–for good. But if that isn’t doable, consider drinking only sodas that contain verifiable low amounts of 4-Mel, such as Coca Cola–they averaged less than 10 micrograms per serving.

Readers: Do you drink soda regularly? Why or why not?

Report: Caramel Color in Soda Could Cause

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One Comment

  1. Nancy Hughes

    July 3, 2014 at 7:11 am

    Keep on saying this, I keep trying to tell my contacts about the risk of dark sodas.

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