Another day, another study hitting soda or cola. If the links to obesity and diabetes were not enough, a new study is linking the process that gives cola its caramel coloring to a known carcinogen. Yeah, that makes me want to pop the top too.

The study, published in PLOS One, is the culmination of new research and tests conducted by Consumer Reports in over 100 soda samples throughout the United States.

Analysis showed that many sodas with caramel coloring contain the compound – 4-methylimidazole (4-MEI) – a known human carcinogen. The compound can be the byproduct in the process that produces the coloring agent.

This study was designed to assess the compounds potential impact on Americans. Researchers from Johns Hopkins University found that 44 percent of kids and 58 percent of adults consume at least one can of soda per day.

Count me in that 58 percent. I know, I’m trying to go all water. Let’s just say I’m a work-in-progress.

The amount of 4-MEI concentrations varied, even among the same beverage. This holds especially true for diet sodas – some samples would have a higher concentration, while others would test lower.

“Soft drink consumers are being exposed to an avoidable and unnecessary cancer risk from an ingredient that is being added to these beverages simply for aesthetic purposes,” senior author Keeve Nachman, director of the food production and public health program at the Center for a Livable Future (CLF), Johns Hopkins’ diet and food production arm, and an assistant professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, said in the news release. “This unnecessary exposure poses a threat to public health and raises questions about the continued use of caramel coloring in soda.”

For now, there is no Federal limit on the amount of 4-MEI in food or beverages. Comforting, I know. Consumer Reports did petition the FDA to last year to place limits on the compound.

California already has limits in place, forcing manufacturers to place warning labels on packaging if it exceeds the mandated level. Samples from the state had lowers levels of the compound, possibly in response to the warning label laws.

“An FDA intervention, such as determining maximum levels for 4-MEI in beverages, could be a valuable approach to reducing excess cancer risk attributable to 4-MEI exposure in the U.S. population,” Nachman said.

Or, we could all just switch to filtered water. Avoid cancer, diabetes and obesity all with one lifestyle switch. Of course, I’m sure we will find a way to mess up clean water.


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