US group flags chemical levels in Coca Cola sold abroad
(Reuters) - Coca-Cola Co’s namesake soda sold in several countries, including Brazil and Kenya, still contains a high level of a chemical linked to cancer in animals months after it made changes to the drinks sold in California, a US watchdog group said yesterday.
The Center for Science in the Public Interest said that samples of Coca-Cola tested in nine countries showed “alarming amounts” of the chemical 4-methylimidazole, or 4-MI, used as an ingredient in caramel colouring. High levels of that chemical have been linked to cancer in animals.
In March, both Coca-Cola and rival PepsiCo Inc said that they had asked suppliers of the caramel coloring to alter their manufacturing process to meet the requirements of a California ballot initiative aiming to limit people’s exposure to toxic chemicals.
Coca-Cola said at the time that it would start in California and expand the use of the reduced 4-MI caramel colouring over time. It did not specify a timetable.
Coca-Cola repeated yesterday that the caramel colouring in all of its products was safe and that it had asked suppliers to change their manufacturing process to comply with California’s labelling requirement.
According to CSPI, sample bottles from California tested this spring showed only 4 microgrammes of 4-MI per 12 ounces. California requires a warning label if a food would lead to people consuming 30 microgrammes or more a day.
But samples from Brazil contained 267 microgrammes and samples from Kenya had 177 microgrammes, CSPI said. Even in the United States, samples from Wash-ington DC had 145 micrograms.
CSPI Executive Director Michael Jacobson said consumers in some other countries drink much less soda than those in the United States, so they have less exposure to the chemical.
“But now that we know it’s possible to almost totally eliminate this carcinogen from colas, there’s no excuse for Coca-Cola and other companies not to do so worldwide, and not just in California,” he said in a statement.