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Artificial Caramel Color in Soda May Cause Cancer

Drinking Coca-Cola, Pepsi, and other sodas isn’t exactly healthy. These drinks are loaded with high fructose corn syrup, artificial colors, caffeine, and no beneficial nutrients. (Not to mention all the sugar in soda will dissolve your tooth enamel and lead to dental disease). Now there’s a new reason why you may want to ban soda from your home – the artificial caramel coloring in soda might cause cancer.

The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), a consumer advocacy group, filed a regulatory petition earlier this week, urging the FDA to ban the use of caramel coloring in colas and other foods. The group says the caramel coloring that major Coca-Cola, Pepsi and other soda companies use is contaminated with two carcinogens (cancer-causing chemicals).

The CSPI claims that the caramel brown coloring found in colas and other food products is different than the pure caramel that you’d concoct at home from melted sugar. The artificial brown coloring in soda products is made by reacting sugar with sulfites and ammonia under high temperatures and high pressure. As a result, the chemical reactions form two cancer-causing chemicals: 2-methylimidazole (2-MEI) and 4-methylimadazole (4-MEI).

These two carcinogens have been shown to cause a variety of cancers (including leukemia, and lung, liver, and thyroid cancer) in government-conducted studies using laboratory mice and rats.

The CSPI claims that the caramel brown coloring found in colas and other food products is different than the pure caramel that you’d concoct at home from melted sugar. The artificial brown coloring in soda products is made by reacting sugar with sulfites and ammonia under high temperatures and high pressure. As a result, the chemical reactions form two cancer-causing chemicals: 2-methylimidazole (2-MEI) and 4-methylimadazole (4-MEI).

These two carcinogens have been shown to cause a variety of cancers (including leukemia, and lung, liver, and thyroid cancer) in government-conducted studies using laboratory mice and rats.

The , which is a division of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences conducted animal studies on these two chemicals. All studies have concluded there is a link between 2-MEI and 4-MEI to cancer.

According to the CSPI, scientists from the University of California-Davis discovered high levels of 4-MI in five popular brands of cola.

“Carcinogenic colorings have no place in the food supply, especially considering that their only function is a cosmetic one. The FDA should act quickly to revoke its approval of caramel colorings made with ammonia,” said Michael F. Jacobson, executive director of CSPI, in a press release.

Not surprisingly, the Coca-Cola company told that the caramel in its products doesn’t cause cancer. The world’s top soft drink company claims that its products only contain one of the chemicals mentioned in the CSPI report.

The American Beverage Association also called the CSPI claim a “scare tactic” and there’s no evidence that the chemicals in caramel coloring cause cancer in humans.

According to the CSPI, there are four types of caramel coloring that the FDA distinguishes. Two are made with ammonia, and two types are made without it. The CSPI wants the FDA to remove the two that are made with ammonia. Caramel IV (ammonia sulfite process caramel) is the type used by soda companies. Caramel II is produced with ammonia but sans sulfites. It is used in soy sauce, beer, and other foods.

The CSPI takes issue with the words “caramel coloring,” arguing that they are misleading and shouldn’t be allowed on food products.

To read the CSPI press release and the regulatory petition filed by the group, go to:

About the author: 7sharov-spb.ru is founder and editor of Hip Chick’s Guide to PMS, Pregnancy and Babies. She’s an expert pregnancy and women’s health blogger. She is NOT a medical doctor and does NOT offer medical advice. Connect with her on , and .

{ 5 comments… add one }
  • April 20, 2012, 6:40 am

    this is almost true for artificial food colouring

  • May 26, 2011, 3:07 pm

    To think that ingesting a petroleum product will not cause adverse reaction over time is ridiculous. Anyone would be hard pressed to find a regular food on the market that does not contain some sort of food dye. It is in everything we eat. It is said that an average human being eats about 11 pounds of toxic chemicals each year and we wonder why ADD, ADHD, Bipolar and Cancer are growing at an alarming rate. There is absolutely no reason to add a petroleum product (food coloring) to anything we eat. The only reason the manufacturers do it is strictly marketing related. They have performed studies that show the human brain perceives bright colors like we see in nature, apples, grapes, oranges, tomatoes as good for our bodies. Therefore if they add color to it and make it brighter, human instinct kicks in and our brains crave it. In reality we are slowly killing ourselves and our children.
    I absolutely hate when I read articles that state there are no studies that show food coloring is harmful. That is just the FDA’s way of saying the lobbyist have more power than you do. I have a child that began to act out with aggression and behaviors that were not natural, nor logical. We struggled for years as he was kicked out of daycare after daycare. As a last resort we took him to a doctor who diagnosed him as bipolar and put him on medication. We hated this but at the time; it was all we could do. We did not want him to hurt himself or anyone else. At one point he jumped out of a car at stoplight on a busy street because we passed a toy store and he was mad that we did not go there. After he was placed on medication, his issues lessened but did not go away completely. After about a year on the medication, he went through about a three week period where he slid back into the uncontrollable personality that he had been before the medication. I began to look at what had changed. I realized that a family member had given us a case of the little orange cheese crackers and a case of a well known ranch flavored potato chips (I don’t want to mention names). Our kids at these standard US snacks at the rate of about 5 or six packages a day during those three weeks. I began to put two and two together and realized the common denominator was food coloring. We removed all foods with artificial food coloring, which by the way was not as easy as it sounds, and within a few days our child was calmed, sweet, and caring again. The few times he had a meltdown was directly related to a food with dye in it. One time we could not figure out why he was acting out, all he had was pizza. Then I found out there is yellow dye in pizza crust. Why you might ask? So it looks pretty and your brain tells you it is healthy food. At this point we have backed his medication down to the lowest dosage and over the summer we plan to completely take him off the medication. Without food dye in his system we have seen an amazing turn around in his personality. It is like night and day. If he get any food dye we see aggression within about thirty to forty minutes after he ate the food coloring. I wish the FDA would call me. I could shoe them in just a few sessions what type of affect this has on our child.
    I find it amazing as I look around and kids are cramming cupcakes with bright blue frosting in their mouths at alarming rates, while the parents stand there and say, “I don’t know why little Johnny is ADD. Where did I go wrong?” … Really? I challenge you to walk in your local convenience store and find an item without artificial dye and by the why “Carmel coloring” found in many products is not natural either, it just sounds like it is.
    Wake up America! The FDA has to quite playing the lobbyist money game while our children are the pawns.
    Join us on FaceBook to ban food coloring today!

  • Catrina March 5, 2011, 3:04 am

    Interesting info. Good thing I don’t drink soda!

  • CCF February 25, 2011, 5:29 pm

    Dr. Fred Guengerich, professor of biochemistry at Vanderbilt University told ABC News you’d have to drink 1,000 sodas a day to reach the level of coloring that caused an effect in mice. Most reporters seemed to miss this in their reporting. The Center for Science in the Public Interest is just fear-mongering about soda because they apparently think we can’t be trusted to make good choices about our health. The ABA is right; this is just a “scare tactic.”

  • Becky February 17, 2011, 10:34 pm

    Wow… and I love soda! Of course, I try to limit the amount I drink anyways. I guess this will limit it even more.
    Thanks for the info.

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