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Consumer Reports Finds Potential Carcinogen in Sodas

Update Date: Jan 23, 2014 01:20 PM EST

According to a new analysis conducted by Consumer Reports, an ingredient used in sodas could be a carcinogen. The researchers identified the chemical 4-methylimidazole, or 4-mel, which is used to create the golden-brown color, as a potential carcinogen. The chemical, which is labeled "caramel coloring," has also been identified by the World Health Organization's (WHO) International Agency for Research on Cancer and California as a possible cause of cancer.

In this analysis, researchers purchased and tested sodas from California that have this ingredient. Within this state, any products that exceed the state limit must contain the label: "WARNING: This product contains a chemical known to the State of California to cause cancer." The researchers found that one 12-ounce serving of Pepsi One or Malta Goya had 4-mel levels that surpassed the state's limit. The products did not come with the warning label. The researchers reported that 10 of the other products they tested had levels within the limit.

"We are concerned about both the levels of 4-MeI we found in many of the soft drinks tested and the variations observed among brands, especially given the widespread consumption of these types of beverages," said Dr. Urvashi Rangan, a Consumer Reports toxicologist, reported by CNN. "There is no reason why consumers need to be exposed to this avoidable and unnecessary risk that can stem from coloring food and beverages brown."

The researchers conducted their study on 81 cans and bottles of different kinds of popular soft drinks. These beverages were purchased from April to September 2013 from the California and New York metropolitan areas. In December 2013, the researchers tested another 29 samples from the same areas.

"The fact that we found lower amounts of 4-MeI in our last round of tests suggests that some manufacturers may be taking steps to reduce levels, which would be a step in the right direction," said Rangan.

The full report can be accessed here.

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