Last year The State of California updated its list of known carcinogens to include 4-methylimidazole (4-MI). Studies have shown it to cause leukemia as well as cancerous tumors in the respiratory system.
Why are we mentioning 4-MI?
Well, its found in every can of Coke (an Pepsi). 4-MI is part of the caramel coloring that gives the carbonated drinks their distinctive brown coloring. But unlike homemade caramel, which is created by melting sugar in a saucepan, the stuff in coke is made by chemical companies by reacting sugars with ammonia and sulfites under high pressure and temperatures. The chemical reactions result in the formation of 4-MI.
In California, An item that may cause cancer must clearly be labeled as such. Coca Cola certainly does not want its bright red cans to include a “Warning: may cause cancer” label on them. So it has asked DDW, the company that supplies its caramel coloring to fiddle with the formula to reduce the level of 4-MI below a point that would require a warning label.
Now of course the PR teams at Coke and the American Beverage Association are downplaying the risks. And so is the FDA (anyone surprised?). According to the FDA, a person would need to drink 1000 cans of Coke a day to reach the level of toxicity that caused cancer in lab mice.
Agreed, the risk for cancer is small. But it is there. So why take chances?
But the bigger beef we have with soda pop is the high sugar content. If you’re a cola drinker, that should be your main reason to quit.