"Consumer Reports": Caramel Color in Soda May Cause Cancer

b_250_0_16777215_00_images_obgrabber_2014-01_0e50638242.jpgBoarding1Now/Thinkstock (YONKERS, N.Y.) -- Before you drink your next soda or other soft drink, you may want to check the label to see if one of the ingredients is caramel color. After testing more than 100 cans and bottles of 12 different brands, Consumer Reports found that all of the samples that listed caramel color as an ingredient contained a chemical byproduct called 4-M.E.I., which is possibly carcinogenic.

"It's not as people think a gooey caramel, it's just a color and it's used to impart brown to foods," Dr. Urvashi Rangan, director of the Consumer Safety and Sustainability at Consumer Reports, points out. The highest levels of 4-M.E.I. were found in Pepsi One and Malta Goya.

Rangan says a National Toxicology Program study confirmed the chemical byproduct causes cancer in animals several years ago. "The state of California listed 4-M.E.I. as a carcinogen known to the state of California and the International Agency for Research on Cancer has also classified 4-M.E.I. as a class 2-B carcinogen," he tells ABC News Radio. As a result, Consumer Reports has written to California's attorney general and the Food and Drug Administration. "Caramel three and caramel four have a particular propensity to form 4-M.E.I. so we think specific labeling of caramel color is important," Rangan notes.

Currently, there are no federal limits on the amount of caramel color used in food and beverages. Pepsi -- and many members of the medical community -- say most people don't drink enough to be in danger. Consumers who are concerned, however, can take precautions.

"Consumers who want to avoid this problem all together should really look at the ingredient panel and look for products that do not have caramel color," Rangan says.

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