Cola drinks caught in war of words between industry and CSPI

Cola drinks caught in war of words between industry and CSPI

The American Beverage Association has accused the Center for Science in the Public Interest of "scare tactics" by asking authorities in the US to ban certain caramel colourings used in cola drinks.

The soft drinks industry body said that there is no evidence that the colourings are linked to cancers in humans.

Its comments come after the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) said today (17 February) that caramel colourings 2-methylimidazole and 4 methylimidazole (2-MEI and 4-MEI) have been linked to increased cancer risk in Government-funded studies on mice and rats.

The CSPI has filed a petition with the US Food & Drug Administration, asking the safety watchdog to ban the colourings from use in food and soft drinks, such as colas. It said that researchers at the University of California, Davis, found significant levels of 4-MEI in five brands of cola.  

The risk is related to caramel colourings produced from ammonia, said the CSPI, which has found five toxicology specialists to back its argument, including two who work for US Department of Health and Human Services. "The FDA should act quickly to revoke its approval of caramel colorings made with ammonia," said the CSPI.

It added that state health officials in California have added 4-MI to the state’s list of “chemicals known to the state to cause cancer”.

However, the American Beverage Association has fought back. "No health regulatory agency around the globe, including the Food and Drug Administration, has said that 4-MEI is a human carcinogen," it said. "This petition is nothing more than another attempt to scare consumers by an advocacy group long-dedicated to attacking the food and beverage industry."

The trade body said it has joined with the California League of Food Processors, the Grocery Manufacturers Association and the National Coffee Association to file a lawsuit against California's Government, accusing it of wrongly-listing 4-MEI as a carcinogen.