Coloring in Soda Poses Serious Cancer Risk, Study Shows

Researchers have discovered that the caramel coloring used in many carbonated beverages can raise the risk of cancer.

Caramel coloring is a common ingredient in many sodas, such as regular or diet cola. Now, it appears this coloring may be a carcinogen. Researchers at Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future believe many soda drinkers are being exposed to 4-methylimidazole (4-MEI), which is formed during the production of caramel coloring.

Keeve Nachman, the study’s senior author, says it’s time consumers became aware of the threat. “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,” Nachman says. “This unnecessary exposure poses a threat to public health and raises questions about the continued use of caramel coloring in soda.”

Helping lead the charge against the use of caramel coloring is Consumer Reports, which led a similar investigation last year. It’s currently pressing the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to set limits on the use of caramel coloring.

If you enjoy soda, chances are you’ve consumed 4-MEI. It can be found in Pepsi One, Diet Pepsi, and Pepsi, with lesser amounts in Coke, Diet Coke, Coke Zero, and Dr. Pepper. Sprite does not contain significant levels of 4-MEI.

Consumer Reports’ Urvashi Rangan says it’s good reason to avoid drinking soda in excessive quantities. “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,” Rangan said. “We believe beverage makers and the government should take the steps needed to protect public health.”


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