In a just-released report that is bound to raise some red flags and ruffle a few feathers, The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) links soda to a cancer-causing chemical. And not just any soda, but four of the world's best-selling sodas: Coca-Cola, Diet Coke, Pepsi, and Diet Pepsi.
The chemical in question, 4-MI, is a byproduct of the process used to create cola's caramel-brown color, and according to the report, has been shown to cause cancer in lab rats and mice. Indeed, it's not the first time the chemical has been under fire. Per a story on The Huffington Post, "Studies linking 4-MI to cancer in mice prompted the state of California to list it as a carcinogen in spring of 2009."
The CSPI report claims that the amount of the chemical found in soda could increase the risk of cancer by a maximum of 4.8 cases per 100,000 people. What's more, the findings have prompted the consumer interest group to petition the FDA to ban the chemical or require soda cans and bottles to be labeled with a "may cause cancer" warning.
Not surprisingly, many officials, including the American Beverage Association, have come forward to discredit the findings. The industry group specifically argues that the CSPI is "scaring people for no reason... again."
What's more Coca-Cola representative Ben Sheidler reached out with this company statement: "Unlike CSPI, The Coca-Cola Company deals in hard facts. Fact: The body of science about 4-MI in foods or beverages does not support the erroneous allegations that CSPI would like the public to believe. The 4-MI levels in our products pose no health or safety risks. Outside of California, no regulatory agency concerned with protecting the public's health has stated that 4-MI is a human carcinogen. The caramel color in all of our ingredients has been, is and always will be safe. That is a fact."
But given that drinking soda is already widely considered to not be very good for one's health, doesn't it feel a little like we're missing the forest for the trees with this one?
UPDATE: A report this morning states that the company has decided to use a different, low 4-MI formulation of caramel coloring.