Los Angeles Times

3 July 2013

A California environmental group said Pepsi cola still contains a cancer-causing chemical, more than one year after PepsiCo Inc. pledged to eliminate it.

The Center for Environmental Health said in a news release Wednesday that research it commissioned found that Pepsi drinks purchased in 10 states contained “the cancer-causing chemical 4-methylimidazole in all 10 products tested from outside of California.”

Last year, Pepsi and Coca-Cola Co. said they would adjust their formulas nationally to avoid having to label their products with a cancer warning in California. The Oakland-based environmental group said that no traces of the carcinogen were found in Pepsi products purchased in California, only in those purchased in other states. The group said testing found that Coca-Cola has eliminated the chemical, also called 4-Mel, nationwide.

“We applaud Coke for taking this health protective action for consumers nationwide. Pepsi’s delay is inexplicable,” said Michael Green, executive director of the Center for Environmental Health. “We urge the company to take swift action to provide all Americans with the same safer product they’re selling in California.”

PepsiCo did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The company told the Associated Press that its caramel coloring suppliers are changing their manufacturing process to cut the amount of 4-Mel in its caramel. That process is complete in California and will be finished in February 2014 in the rest of the country, Pepsi told the Associated Press.

Meanwhile, the company said the FDA and other regulatory agencies around the world consider Pepsi’s caramel coloring safe.

Coca-Cola said it has transitioned to using a modified caramel in U.S. markets beyond California that does not contain the chemical, so it wouldn’t have to have separate inventory of products for different locations. It also said all of its products, whether they have the modified caramel or not, are safe.

The Center for Environmental Health said it commissioned Eurofins Analystical laboratory in Metairie, La., to test Coke and Pepsi products from California in May and from across the country in June.

Trace amounts of 4-Mel have not been linked to cancer in humans. The American Beverage Assn. said that California added the coloring to its list of carcinogens with no studies showing that it causes cancer in humans. It noted that the listing was based on a single study in lab mice and rats.

The Food and Drug Administration has also said that a consumer would have to drink more than 1,000 cans of soda a day to reach the doses administered that have shown links to cancer in rodents.

Coca-Cola and PepsiCo account for almost 90% of the soda market, according to industry tracker Beverage Digest.

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