Are Colas Little More than Cancer in a Can?

NEW YORK (MainStreet) — That soft drink in your hand may be doing more damage than you realize.. A new study by Consumer Reports reveals a potentially-carcinogenic chemical byproduct might be lurking in caramel colored colas.

The tests found varying levels of 4-methylimidazole (4-MeI), particularly in beverages that listed "caramel color" as an ingredient. Twelve brands of sodas and soft drinks were tested from five manufacturers – including Coca-Cola, Pepsi, and Goya.

"We are concerned about both the levels of 4-MeI we found in many of the soft drinks tested and the variations observed among brands, especially given the widespread consumption of these types of beverages," says Dr. Urvashi Rangan, a toxicologist and executive director of the Consumer Reports Food Safety and Sustainability Center. "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 non-profit consumer advocacy notes that caramel color is used in certain food and beverages as a coloring agent and should not be confused with real caramel.

"Some types of this artificial coloring contain 4-MeI which has been recognized as a possible human carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer," the report says.

There are currently no federal limits imposed on the amount of caramel color allowed in food and beverages; however, products sold in California that would expose consumers to more than 29 micrograms of 4-MeI in a day are required to carry a warning label under the state's Proposition 65 law.

Consumer Reports tested cans and bottles of popular brands of soft drinks and found that 12-ounce single servings of two products in particular, purchased multiple times during an eight-month period in the state of California – Pepsi One and Malta Goya – exceeded the state's 4-Mel limit.

"While we cannot say that this violates California's Prop 65, we believe that these levels are too high, and we have asked the California Attorney General to investigate," Consumer Reports said in a statement.