"Toxi-Cola." That's what one public advocacy group wants you to think when you reach for your next can of Coke or Pepsi, and it's taking its case to the Food and Drug Administration.
The D.C.-based group, Center for Science in the Public Interest, says that the "caramel coloring" used in a variety of soft drinks contains chemicals that have been shown to cause cancer, and it has petitioned the FDA to ban those chemicals.
"In contrast to the caramel one might make at home by melting sugar in a saucepan, the artificial brown coloring in colas and some other products is made by reacting sugars with ammonia and sulfites under high pressure and temperatures," CSPI said in a press release. "Chemical reactions result in the formation of 2-methylimidazole and 4 methylimidazole, which in government-conducted studies caused lung, liver, or thyroid cancer or leukemia in laboratory mice or rats."
CSPI claims that the coloring serves no other purpose than to give Coke, Pepsi, Dr. Pepper and other sodas their distinctive "cola" hue. A handful of other products, such as soy sauce and beer, also contain the coloring.
"Carcinogenic colorings have no place in the food supply, especially considering that their only function is a cosmetic one," said CSPI executive director Michael F. Jacobson. CSPI also notes that California is already considering requiring caramel-colored sodas to carry a warning label based on the cancer risks and claims that sodas could be causing "thousands" of cancers in the U.S.
It's no surprise that the big soft drink companies don't exactly agree. "Scare tactic" is what the American Beverage Association called CSPI's campaign, according to Reuters, while Coca-Cola flatly denied that the caramel it uses causes cancer.
This isn't the first time CSPI has played David to the Goliaths of the American food and beverage industry. Just last December, the group filed suit against McDonald's, seeking for force the fast-food giant to stop marketing to kids by putting toys in its Happy Meals.
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