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Recipes for Coke and Pepsi altered

13th March 2012

US drinks giants Pepsi and Coca-Cola have announced changes to their manufacturing process in response to strict new rules on caramel colouring in the state of California.

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The companies, which together hold a 90% share of the US soft drinks market, said they believed the changes were unnecessary, but that they had complied with the new rules in order to avoid a cancer warning on their products.

The controversial ingredient, a caramel colouring known as 4-MEI, has been shown to cause cancer in laboratory rats.

The companies say the concentrations they use are far lower than the doses administered to the animals in tests, however, and that there is no health risk from drinking cola.

California has added 4-MEI to its list of carcinogens, the only state to do so thus far.

While the companies had already changed their production process to comply with the new rules in California, they will now roll out the same changes across the US to save additional costs incurred by having two different processes.

A spokeswoman for Coca-Cola, Diana Garza-Ciarlante, said the company wanted to ensure its products would not be subject to the requirement of "a scientifically unfounded warning."

4-methylimidazole, or 4-MEI, is formed naturally in the heating and browning process. It occurs in caramel colouring as well as some roasted and cooked foods.

It is sometimes also found in certain agricultural chemicals, cleaning products and photographic supplies.

According to the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment, people can be exposed to it either through consumption, or via the manufacturing process itself.

Speaking on behalf of the drink industry, the American Beverage Association said that while chemical was linked to cancer in mice and rats, there is no evidence that it poses a health risk to humans.

According to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), a person would need to drink more than 1,000 cans of Coke or Pepsi a day to acquire the same dose of the chemical that was given to the animals in the lab test.

Coca-Cola said that the company's manufacturing process in Europe would not be affected, however.

California was so far the only regulatory agency to consider caramels a significant source of 4-MEI exposure, it added.

 

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