sodaThis country made the decision to turn drugs away from soda long ago; Coca-Cola is no longer permitted, per federal law to put cocaine in their beverages. Surely that was the end of it…right? According to a new study, there have been traces of the compounds in methamphetamine found in caramel colored sodas, like Pepsi, Dr. Pepper, and Coca-Cola. The FDA released a statement claiming there is no reason to believe that caramel colored sodas are unsafe, yet they are taking another intense look at the beverages just to be sure. Hmm…

A study by Consumer Reports found that 12 brands of caramel colored soda contained various levels of 4-methylimidazole. The compound is found in the coloring itself, and has been used in the sodas with federal organizational knowledge for decades. Though the FDA is now reviewing the new data found on the compound, they have yet to release any information they have uncovered.

Currently, there are no limits on how much 4-methylimidazole can be contained in caramel colored sodas and other foods. The substance is formed in low levels of caramel coloring during the processing of foods and can also be found in trace amount in coffee beans and meats. Following this newfound data, Consumer Reports are pressuring the FDA to set standards for how much of the compound can be contained in foods, even stating that companies whose foods have caramel coloring cannot have “natural” on their food labels. Toxicologist and lead investigator on this study, Dr. Urvashi, addressed his viewpoints on the data. “There is no reason why consumers need to be exposed to this avoidable and unnecessary risk that can stem from coloring food and beverages brown.”

The studies have not been conclusive on whether or not caramel food coloring is poisonous to the body; however, some states, such as California, include the compound in their list of carcinogenic substances and require a cancer warning for foods that might contain it. Various popular brands of soda, such as Coca-Cola, Coke, and Pepsi have directed their suppliers to reduce the amount of 4-methylimidazole contained in their beverages.

Dangerous Ingredients: How Much is Too Much

Consumer Reports tested several of today’s most popular beverages: Sprite, Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Coke Zero, Dr. Pepper, A&W Root Beer, Brisk Iced Tea, and several others. Of the drinks studied, they found nothing of significance in Sprite, and consistently low levels of the meth-based compound in Coke beverages. Are the levels enough to harm consumers?

In California, there is a standard. No 12-ounce beverage may contain more than the 29 micrograms of methyl- per day cap in California state law. Over an eight-month period, single 12-ounce cans of Pepsi One and Malta Goya were found to have more than the 29 micrograms, but had no warnings on their labels. Despite the Consumer Reports, the spokeswoman for PepsiCo addressed the concerns brought to her company, claiming that Consumer Reports’ information was faulty. She even issued a statement claiming that the average consumption of soda cans per capita were less than the 12-ounce can Consumer Reports used for their study. Per capita, she argues, people are consuming less than the 29 micrograms. “All of Pepsi’s products are below the threshold set in California,” she stated, “and are in full compliance with the law.”

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have their staff working on the compound as well. They could not provide any conclusive data on daily soda consumption and its possible ramifications. Beverage Digest suggested that 1.3 standard cans of soda were consumed a day, per capita, in the United States. The American Beverage Association states that sodas are safe and new colorings without the meth-based compound are being developed and substituted.


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