Coke and Pepsi change recipes to avoid cancer warning

Mar 9, 2012

Fizzy drink giants change secret formulas even though carcinogenic threat is infinitesimal

Justin Sullivan

THE secret recipes of Coca-Cola and Pepsi-Cola are being changed. Both companies are altering the way they make the caramel colouring used in their sodas as a result of a California law that mandates drinks containing a certain level of carcinogens carry a cancer warning label.
USA Today reports that the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a consumer advocacy group, filed a petition in February with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to ban the use of ammonia-sulfite caramel colouring which, under certain manufacturing processes, can contain high levels of 4-methylimidazole, shown to have caused cancer in tests on rodents.
A spokesman for the FDA said the petition is being reviewed. But he noted that a consumer would have to drink more than 1,000 cans of fizzy pop a day to reach the doses administered that have shown links to cancer in rodents.
The change to the recipes has already been introduced in California, but the companies say rolling out the new recipe across the US makes the drinks more efficient to manufacture.
"We believe that there is no public health risk that justifies any such change," Coca-Cola representative Diana Garza-Ciarlante said. “We did ask our caramel suppliers to take this step so that our products would not be subject to the requirement of a scientifically unfounded warning."
According to The Guardian, Coca-Cola and PepsiCo account for nearly 90 per cent of the fizzy drink market worldwide.

Coke's recipe is famously a closely guarded secret apparently only known to a handful of executives. The drink was originally marketed as a medicinal treatment for headaches, and coca leaves were used in its preparation. The small amount of cocaine provided users with a buzz, but in 1903 the company stopped using coca leaves, using caffeine to replace the stimulation. All beneficial medicinal claims were dropped.

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