PepsiCo moved to remove the chemical last year

PepsiCo moved to remove the chemical last year

PepsiCo has said all of its US products will be free of a chemical linked to cancer by February next year after a health group accused the company of falling behind the Coca-Cola Co on a pledge to remove it. 

Tests found “high levels” of 4-methylimidazole (4-MEI) in all PepsiCo cola products outside of California compared to 10% of Coca-Cola's colas, the Centre for Environmental Health said yesterday (3 July). Both companies moved to strike 4-MEI, which gives cola its caramel colour, from their ingredients in March last year after California added it to a list of potentially harmful chemicals.

In a statement yesterday, PepsiCo said it has “moved aggressively to meet this commitment”.

“The work has been done in California; by year end we will start rolling out to meet our target for the rest of the US, which will be completed by February 2014,” the statement said. “PepsiCo suppliers are also undertaking this effort globally.”

The company refuted claims its products are dangerous, saying the US Food and Drug Administration, the European Food Safety Authority and Health Canada consider its caramel colouring safe.

Coca-Cola has always insisted that the caramel colour "has been, is and always will be safe".

Last year, PepsiCo and Coca-Cola faced putting cancer warning labels on their bottles and cans in California after a study found 4-MEI could cause cancer in rats.

However, a human would reportedly have to drink around 3,000 cans every day to equal the intake of 4-MEI given to the rats in the study.