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Cancer causing chemical still lurks in Pepsi products

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Pepsi products still contain cancer causing chemicals, finds consumer group.

A new report from the The Center for Environmental Health (CEH) has found the caramel coloring in Pepsi is likely to cause cancer, despite claims from the company that they had removed the chemical 4-methylimidazole, or 4-Mel from their products.

The chemical that is a known carcinogen forms during the cooking process and is of concern for causing cancer, based on animal studies. Consumer advocates would like to see any product that might cause cancer in humans labeled as a possible carcinogen - something California has already mandated.

In their report, published today, the CEH wrote: "Coke has changed its caramel coloring nationwide but outside California Pepsi is still using coloring with high levels of a cancer-causing chemical."

They explain it has been more than a year since Pepsi pledged to "clean-up" cancer causing ingredients that were discovered by the watchdog group through independent testing.

Both Pepsi and Coca-Cola said they would change their caramel coloring nationwide in response to the California legislation. But the group's testing found Pepsi, but not Coca-Cola is still using the cancer-causing agent, found in 10 of their products tested.

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Michael Green, Executive Director of CEH said in a press release, “We applaud Coke for taking this health protective action for consumers nationwide. Pepsi’s delay is inexplicable. We urge the company to take swift action to provide all Americans with the same safer product they’re selling in California.”

Testing of the Pepsi products purchased outside of California found levels 4-Mel to be 4 to more than 8 times higher than California safety levels and found in all 10 Pepsi products.

The CEH also notes a current chemical policy reform proposal in Congress, the Chemical Safety Improvement Act (CSIA) that was introduce May, 2012 would would "..undermine long-fought health protections that consumers and workers have won and could invalidate California’s Prop 65 law."

The group explains it isn't about the color of Pepsi. Instead, the cancer causing agent is formed from the manufacturing process that could changed without altering the color of the beverages.

Forty-eight percent of Americans drink an average of 2.6 sodas a day. You can view a chart of the CEH findings related to the cancer-causing agent found in Pepsi products here.

In response to the finding, Pepsi says they are continuing to work toward eliminating the carcinogen from their products. PepsiCo Senior Director Aurora Gonzalez stated the process should be completed throughout the U.S. by February 2014.