A color photo of a bottle of Pepsi and a bottle of Coke next to each other.

A color photo of a bottle of Pepsi and a bottle of Coke next to each other.

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Soda and Cancer Risk: Pepsi to Eliminate Alleged Carcinogen from Cola Recipe

Does your favorite soda contain an ingredient that may cause cancer? Pop titans Coke and Pepsi both used a chemical called 4-MEI to color their colas, but in 2011 the state of California listed 4-MEI as a carcinogen.

Health authorities have since requested the two soda makers stop using this alleged cancer-causing ingredient in their products. Coke has complied, but apparently Pepsi is still using 4-MEI in beverages sold outside of California.

Drinking soda like Pepsi isn’t exactly a health-conscious choice, but are you really risking cancer when you take the Pepsi challenge? Let’s review the facts.

 

California Prop 65 Alerts Public to 4-MEI Health Risk

Proposition 65, which California passed in 2011, basically said that the levels of 4-MEI found in Coke and Pepsi would have required that the soda cans display a cancer warning label like those found on alcohol bottles or cigarettes.

Obviously, both Coke and Pepsi responded to Prop 65 by announcing they would switch to a formula that didn’t contain any of the allegedly carcinogenic chemical.

A color photo of two soda coolers next to one another.

An ingredient known as 4-MEI is used to give soda its distinctive and appetizing brown color, and has also been found to cause cancer in some cases.

But should this be grounds for divorce from your favorite brown soda forever?

Well, soda isn’t all that healthy for you to begin with. Sugary soft drinks have been shown to destroy your teeth and expand your waistline, but the quantity of 4-MEI in a can of Coke or Pepsi probably won’t give you a tumor anytime soon. According to NPR:

“The FDA issued a statement last year, before the formulation of caramel coloring was changed, stating that a consumer would have to drink more than 1,000 cans of soda a day to reach the doses that have been shown to lead to cancer in rodents.”

So it turns out there’s some debate about whether or not 4-MEI is as dangerous as the state of California thinks it is. Either way, California’s legislators don’t want 4-MEI in your soda unless it’s labelled.

 

Pepsi Continues to Use Cancer-Causing 4-MEI in US Products

Two two-liter bottles of Coca-Cola soda.

Studies have found that Coke has removed 4-MEI from its sodas nationwide.

By now, both Coca-Cola and Pepsi have managed to fix their formulas in the state of California so that they don’t contain any 4-MEI.

It would make sense, then, that they’d also adjust the formula for the rest of the country, right?

Apparently, this hasn’t been the case. According to NPR:

“…a new analysis by the Center for Environmental Health found that 10 of 10 samples of Pepsi products purchased nationwide during the month of June (in locations outside of California) contained levels of 4-MEI that were about four to eight times higher than the safety thresholds set by California.”

That doesn’t look good for Pepsi, especially when 9 out of 10 samples of Coke bought outside the Golden State were found to have little to no 4-MEI in them.

Of course, Pepsi is arguing that this isn’t cause for concern, because the FDA and other agencies don’t consider 4-MEI to be unsafe for human consumption.

But they’ve also added that they’re going to phase the ingredient out completely by February 2014.

 

Enough to Change Your Habits?

What do you think? Will this news find you drinking less soda?

It’s no secret that many people believe Americans need to adopt healthier lifestyles. Does this news prompt you to take any kind of action? Or do you think people should be free to drink or eat whatever unhealthy foods they like? Share with us in the comments section.

 

See Also

Common Food Packaging Chemical BPA Could Be Banned Due to Health Risks
Tylenol to Feature New Warning Amid Nationwide Health Problems
Bacon Causes Cancer? Why You Shouldn’t Believe Everything You Read Online

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Author:

Sean Boulger is a freelance writer and storytelling enthusiast living in LA. He loves television, pop culture, minimalism, and two cats.

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