by Brad Dorfman
June 26, 2012
Cancer-Causing Chemical Levels
in Coke Sold Abroad Remain Excessive
Coca-Cola Co's namesake soda sold in
several countries, including Brazil and Kenya, still
contains a high level of a chemical linked to cancer in animals
months after it made changes to the drinks sold in California, a
U.S. watchdog group said on Tuesday.
The Center for Science in the Public Interest said that samples of
Coca-Cola tested in nine countries showed "alarming amounts" of the
chemical 4-methylimidazole, or 4-MI, used as an ingredient in
caramel coloring. High levels of that chemical have been linked to
cancer in animals.
In March, both Coca-Cola and rival PepsiCo Inc said that they had
asked suppliers of the caramel coloring to alter their manufacturing
process to meet the requirements of a California ballot initiative
aiming to limit people's exposure to toxic chemicals.
Coca-Cola said at the time that it would start in California and
expand the use of the reduced 4-MI caramel coloring over time. It
did not specify a timetable.
Coca-Cola repeated on Tuesday that the caramel coloring in all of
its products was safe and that it had asked suppliers to change
their manufacturing process to comply with California's labeling
According to CSPI, sample bottles from California tested this spring
showed only 4 micrograms of 4-MI per 12 ounces. California requires
a warning label if a food would lead to people consuming 30
micrograms or more a day.
But samples from Brazil contained 267 micrograms and samples from
Kenya had 177 micrograms, CSPI said. Even in the United States,
samples from Washington D.C. had 145 micrograms.
CSPI Executive Director Michael Jacobson said consumers in
some other countries drink much less soda than those in the United
States, so they have less exposure to the chemical.
"But now that we know it's possible
to almost totally eliminate this carcinogen from colas, there's
no excuse for Coca-Cola and other companies not to do so
worldwide, and not just in California," he said in a statement.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is
considering a petition by the watchdog group to ban the process that
creates the heightened 4-MI levels, but said that there is no reason
to believe there is any immediate or short-term danger to consumers.
Earlier this year, an FDA spokesman said a person would have to
drink "well over a thousand cans of soda a day to reach the doses
administered in the studies that have shown links to cancer in
Coca-Cola said on Tuesday it was still working on the logistics of
introducing the new caramel coloring.
"We intend to expand the use of the
modified caramel globally to allow us to streamline and simplify
our supply chain, manufacturing, and distribution systems," the
company said in a statement.
A spokeswoman declined to say how much
the switch would cost.