CSPI urges ban on caramel coloring in soft drinks due to alleged cancer risk

The Los Angeles Times “Booster Shots” blog reports, “In a letter to the US Food and Drug Administration, the consumer watchdog group Center for Science in the Public Interest [CSPI] called on officials to ban the use of caramel coloring in popular soft drinks, citing a possible cancer risk.”

CSPI “first petitioned the FDA on the matter in 2011, noting that 2-methylimidazole and 4-methylimidazole, which form when sugar is mixed with ammonia and sulfites to create caramel coloring, had been shown to cause lung, liver and thyroid cancer in mice and rats.”

The group’s executive director Michael F. Jacobson, “in a letter written Monday to FDA Commissioner Dr. Margaret Hamburg…described recent lab analyses that showed 4-methylimidazole, or 4-MI, levels in 12-ounce servings of soda that exceeded the 29 microgram limit recommended by the state of California by nearly five times.”

Bloomberg News reports, however, that an individual “would have to drink more than a thousand cans of soda in a day to match the doses administered in studies that showed links to cancer in rodents, Douglas Karas, a US Food and Drug Administration spokesman, said in a statement.”

The agency “has no reason to believe consumers are in danger, the FDA’s Karas wrote in an e-mail. The agency is reviewing the group’s petition, he said.”

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