Welcome!

News Feed Item

Consumer Reports Tests Show Consumers Unnecessarily Exposed to Potential Cancer Risk in Many Soft Drinks

Consumers Union calls on government to set stronger regulations for caramel color in food and beverages

YONKERS, N.Y., Jan. 23, 2014 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- In Consumer Reports' recent tests of sodas and other soft drinks, varying levels of 4-methylimidazole (4-MeI), a potentially-carcinogenic chemical byproduct of the production of certain types of caramel color, were found in all of the samples that listed caramel color as an ingredient. Twelve brands of sodas and soft drinks from five manufacturers – including Coca-Cola, Pepsi, and Goya – were tested.  The full findings are featured online at www.ConsumerReports.org.

"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. 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," said Dr. Urvashi Rangan, a toxicologist and Executive Director of the Consumer Reports Food Safety and Sustainability Center.

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.

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

Between April and September 2013, Consumer Reports tested 81 cans and bottles of various popular brands of soft drinks purchased in stores in California and the New York metropolitan region.  Twenty-nine additional samples were purchased and tested in December 2013.

In its tests, Consumer Reports found that 12-ounce single servings of two products purchased multiple times during an eight-month period in the state of California – Pepsi One and Malta Goya – exceeded 29 micrograms per can or bottle. 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.

After Consumer Reports informed PepsiCo of its test results, the company issued a statement that said that Proposition 65 is based on per day exposure and not exposure per can. It also cited government consumption data that shows that the average amount of diet soda consumed by people who drink it is 100 milliliters per day, or less than a third of a 12-ounce can. For that reason, they believe that Pepsi One does not require cancer-risk warning labels – even if the amount of 4-MeI in a single can exceeds 29 micrograms.

Consumer Reports says there is published analysis of government data that shows higher levels of daily consumption of soft drinks generally.

Consumer Reports also found samples of Coke with average levels of 4.3 micrograms or less per serving, which is much lower than California's threshold for labeling.

"While our study is not big enough to recommend one brand over another, our results underscore two key points:  The first is that it is indeed feasible to get down to lower and almost negligible levels of 4-MeI. And the second is that federal standards are required to compel manufacturers to minimize the creation of this potential carcinogen," said Rangan.

Other findings from Consumer Reports' tests include:

  • Coca-Cola products tested had the lowest levels of 4-MeI for products with caramel color listed on the label.
  • While Whole Foods' Dr. Snap has a "natural" label, its products contained 4-MeI. All caramel colors are considered artificial.

What the Government Can Do

Consumers Union, the policy and action arm of Consumer Reports, has filed a petition with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).  Specifically, it is asking the FDA to:

  • Set a standard for limiting the formation of 4-MeI in those caramel colors that contain it (caramel III and IV).
  • Require labeling of specific caramel colors in the ingredient lists of food where it is added, so consumers can make informed choices.  Not all caramel color contains 4-MeI, but consumers have no way of knowing.  Europe already requires this type of labeling.
  • Bar products from carrying the "natural" label if they contain caramel colors.

What Consumers Can Do

At this point, the best consumers can do to avoid exposure to 4-MeI is to choose soft drinks and other foods that do not list "caramel color" or "artificial color" on their ingredient list.

Note:  Consumer Reports partnered with Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future to do the testing and the risk assessment. This project was made possible by donations to the Consumer Reports' Food Safety and Sustainability Center.

Consumer Reports is the world's largest independent product-testing organization. Using its more than 50 labs, auto test center, and survey research center, the nonprofit rates thousands of products and services annually. Founded in 1936, Consumer Reports has over 8 million subscribers to its magazine, website and other publications.  Its advocacy division, Consumers Union, works for health reform, product safety, financial reform, and other consumer issues in Washington, D.C., the states, and in the marketplace.

JANUARY 2014
The material above is intended for legitimate news entities only; it may not be used for advertising or promotional purposes. Consumer Reports® is an expert, independent nonprofit organization whose mission is to work for a fair, just, and safe marketplace for all consumers and to empower consumers to protect themselves.  We accept no advertising and pay for all the products we test. We are not beholden to any commercial interest. Our income is derived from the sale of Consumer Reports®, ConsumerReports.org® and our other publications and information products, services, fees, and noncommercial contributions and grants. Our Ratings and reports are intended solely for the use of our readers. Neither the Ratings nor the reports may be used in advertising or for any other commercial purpose without our permission. Consumer Reports will take all steps open to it to prevent commercial use of its materials, its name, or the name of Consumer Reports®.

SOURCE Consumer Reports

More Stories By PR Newswire

Copyright © 2007 PR Newswire. All rights reserved. Republication or redistribution of PRNewswire content is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of PRNewswire. PRNewswire shall not be liable for any errors or delays in the content, or for any actions taken in reliance thereon.

Latest Stories
More and more companies are looking to microservices as an architectural pattern for breaking apart applications into more manageable pieces so that agile teams can deliver new features quicker and more effectively. What this pattern has done more than anything to date is spark organizational transformations, setting the foundation for future application development. In practice, however, there are a number of considerations to make that go beyond simply “build, ship, and run,” which changes how...
Cloud computing delivers on-demand resources that provide businesses with flexibility and cost-savings. The challenge in moving workloads to the cloud has been the cost and complexity of ensuring the initial and ongoing security and regulatory (PCI, HIPAA, FFIEC) compliance across private and public clouds. Manual security compliance is slow, prone to human error, and represents over 50% of the cost of managing cloud applications. Determining how to automate cloud security compliance is critical...
Traditional IT, great for stable systems of record, is struggling to cope with newer, agile systems of engagement requirements coming straight from the business. In his session at 18th Cloud Expo, William Morrish, General Manager of Product Sales at Interoute, will outline ways of exploiting new architectures to enable both systems and building them to support your existing platforms, with an eye for the future. Technologies such as Docker and the hyper-convergence of computing, networking and...
Contextual Analytics of various threat data provides a deeper understanding of a given threat and enables identification of unknown threat vectors. In his session at @ThingsExpo, David Dufour, Head of Security Architecture, IoT, Webroot, Inc., discussed how through the use of Big Data analytics and deep data correlation across different threat types, it is possible to gain a better understanding of where, how and to what level of danger a malicious actor poses to an organization, and to determin...
Adding public cloud resources to an existing application can be a daunting process. The tools that you currently use to manage the software and hardware outside the cloud aren’t always the best tools to efficiently grow into the cloud. All of the major configuration management tools have cloud orchestration plugins that can be leveraged, but there are also cloud-native tools that can dramatically improve the efficiency of managing your application lifecycle. In his session at 18th Cloud Expo, ...
Organizations planning enterprise data center consolidation and modernization projects are faced with a challenging, costly reality. Requirements to deploy modern, cloud-native applications simultaneously with traditional client/server applications are almost impossible to achieve with hardware-centric enterprise infrastructure. Compute and network infrastructure are fast moving down a software-defined path, but storage has been a laggard. Until now.
Let’s face it, embracing new storage technologies, capabilities and upgrading to new hardware often adds complexity and increases costs. In his session at 18th Cloud Expo, Seth Oxenhorn, Vice President of Business Development & Alliances at FalconStor, discussed how a truly heterogeneous software-defined storage approach can add value to legacy platforms and heterogeneous environments. The result reduces complexity, significantly lowers cost, and provides IT organizations with improved efficienc...
Nicolas Fierro is CEO of MIMIR Blockchain Solutions. He is a programmer, technologist, and operations dev who has worked with Ethereum and blockchain since 2014. His knowledge in blockchain dates to when he performed dev ops services to the Ethereum Foundation as one the privileged few developers to work with the original core team in Switzerland.
Digital Transformation and Disruption, Amazon Style - What You Can Learn. Chris Kocher is a co-founder of Grey Heron, a management and strategic marketing consulting firm. He has 25+ years in both strategic and hands-on operating experience helping executives and investors build revenues and shareholder value. He has consulted with over 130 companies on innovating with new business models, product strategies and monetization. Chris has held management positions at HP and Symantec in addition to ...
CI/CD is conceptually straightforward, yet often technically intricate to implement since it requires time and opportunities to develop intimate understanding on not only DevOps processes and operations, but likely product integrations with multiple platforms. This session intends to bridge the gap by offering an intense learning experience while witnessing the processes and operations to build from zero to a simple, yet functional CI/CD pipeline integrated with Jenkins, Github, Docker and Azure...
Digital transformation has increased the pace of business creating a productivity divide between the technology haves and have nots. Managing financial information on spreadsheets and piecing together insight from numerous disconnected systems is no longer an option. Rapid market changes and aggressive competition are motivating business leaders to reevaluate legacy technology investments in search of modern technologies to achieve greater agility, reduced costs and organizational efficiencies. ...
Cloud-enabled transformation has evolved from cost saving measure to business innovation strategy -- one that combines the cloud with cognitive capabilities to drive market disruption. Learn how you can achieve the insight and agility you need to gain a competitive advantage. Industry-acclaimed CTO and cloud expert, Shankar Kalyana presents. Only the most exceptional IBMers are appointed with the rare distinction of IBM Fellow, the highest technical honor in the company. Shankar has also receive...
Fact: storage performance problems have only gotten more complicated, as applications not only have become largely virtualized, but also have moved to cloud-based infrastructures. Storage performance in virtualized environments isn’t just about IOPS anymore. Instead, you need to guarantee performance for individual VMs, helping applications maintain performance as the number of VMs continues to go up in real time. In his session at Cloud Expo, Dhiraj Sehgal, Product and Marketing at Tintri, sha...
As Cybric's Chief Technology Officer, Mike D. Kail is responsible for the strategic vision and technical direction of the platform. Prior to founding Cybric, Mike was Yahoo's CIO and SVP of Infrastructure, where he led the IT and Data Center functions for the company. He has more than 24 years of IT Operations experience with a focus on highly-scalable architectures.
Using new techniques of information modeling, indexing, and processing, new cloud-based systems can support cloud-based workloads previously not possible for high-throughput insurance, banking, and case-based applications. In his session at 18th Cloud Expo, John Newton, CTO, Founder and Chairman of Alfresco, described how to scale cloud-based content management repositories to store, manage, and retrieve billions of documents and related information with fast and linear scalability. He addres...