Coca-Cola and Pepsi have “voluntarily” elected to change the makeup of the caramel coloring used in their sodas rather than comply with a newly-enacted California statute mandating that drinks containing a minimum level of carcinogens bear a cancer-warning label. Coca-Cola and Pepsi would otherwise be subject to the law due to the 4-methylimidazole compound, which can be formed during the cooking process and as a result may be found in trace amounts in many products.
A representative of Coca-Cola announced that, although the company maintains that there is no public health risk associated with the caramel coloring, they have ensured that their suppliers are abiding by the modifications. Notably, the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) appears to agree with Coca-Cola, telling Reuters recently that one would need to drink approximately 1,000 cans of soda each day to reach the threshold risk contemplated by advocates of the law.
The caramel modification is a considerable undertaking for Coca-Cola and Pepsi, who together enjoy 90% of the domestic soda market. Although the recipe alteration has already been implemented in California, both companies plan to extend the modification nationwide for purposes of streamlining their manufacturing process.
The American Beverage Association has ardently stressed that “[c]onsumers will notice no difference in our products and have no reason at all for any health concerns.” If the companies can indeed preserve the same taste, I’m sure customers will appreciate an arguably healthier product.