Of course, most soft drink companies and the FDA are doing nothing about it

caramel coloringIt’s fairly common knowledge these days that soda (carbonated soft drinks) aren’t great for your health. First, they are loaded with sugar, caffeine, and have no real nutritional value. As it turns out, one of the lesser known ingredients, the caramel coloring we all know and expect, is a known carcinogen. And from my research, I was unable to find any real reason to include it in sodas to begin with.

That’s right – the stuff they add to soda to make it that “soda brown”, could very easily give you cancer. So, what goes in to make that lovely color we’ve all come to know and love? Among other things, its a chemical called 4-methylimidazole, or 4-MeI for short. And Consumer Reports recently found out just how much of this cancer causing chemical is actually in our soft drinks.

According to the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer, 4-Mel is a known possible carcinogen. In the State of California, any food or drink item containing more than 29 grams of this chemical is required to carry the following message: “WARNING: This product contains a chemical known to the State of California to cause cancer.”

But, of course, that hasn’t stopped Pepsi and others from exceeding those limits. This week, Consumer Reports presented a study to the annual meeting of the American Heart Association. In the study, they purchased Pepsi One, Malta Goya and ten other brands of soda in California and tested them. Pepsi One and Goya exceeded the acceptable limits of 4-Mel permitted without a warning label, while the other ten (unnamed) brands were found to be within acceptable limits.

“We are concerned about both the levels of 4-MeI we found in many of the soft drinks tested and the variations observed among brands, especially given the widespread consumption of these types of beverages,” said Dr. Urvashi Rangan, a Consumer Reports toxicologist.

What’s more concerning is that sodas in other areas were also tested, including a test on Pepsi One in New York that exceeded the WHO acceptable limit four times over. What does the FDA say? They don’t monitor Mel-4 in foods or drink. At all. Ever.

Here’s their official statement to CNN: “Currently the FDA has no reason to believe that 4-Mel poses a health risk to consumers at the levels found in foods with caramel coloring. The government agency is testing a variety of food and beverages with the chemical and reviewing safety data to determine if any regulatory action needs to be taken.” So, basically, they responded with a soothing lie.

And here is what happened when the American Beverage Association was confronted: “First and foremost, consumers can rest assured that our industry’s beverages are safe. Contrary to the conclusions of Consumer Reports, FDA has noted there is no reason at all for any health concerns, a position supported by regulatory agencies around the world.” Well of course the FDA would say that, because remember, they don’t bother to monitor it.

So what can the average American do to reduce their risk of cancer from caramel colored soft drinks? First, avoid them all together. That’s a no-brainer. But if you really, really, really have a craving for Pepsi One, drinking only a third of the container will reduce your risk to “acceptable Mel-4 consumption levels”. Personally, I also suggest you pour it in a clear glass to drink it from, so you also enjoy that fascinating caramel color.

Kalyn Powell has spent her life wearing many hats: mother, volunteer and involvement with many non profit organizations and Charitable Foundations, teaching many children, telecom engineering, business development, foster care to high risk children, corporate and non profit marketing, and much more. She is now retired from the hustle & bustle world, and spends her time on the Gulf Coast of Texas breathing in the sea air, doting on her family, ministering, creating mixed media art, enjoying finding beauty in whatever form it takes and bringing awareness to the issues affecting our lives & our world through writing.