Coke and Pepsi Recipes Altered To Have Less 4-Methylimidazole

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Glass of Cola with StrawTwo of the world’s most loved soft drinks are making a few changes and many health conscious consumers are saying that it’s about time. Coca-Cola and Pepsi both are focused on changing how they manufacture one of their soft drink ingredients in order to avoid cancer warning labels being placed on their products.

The Buzz over Soft Drinks Containing Carcinogens

Recent changes in California have now deemed 4-methylimidazole (or 4-MEI) to be a carcinogenic product, unfortunately for Coca-Cola and Pepsi; their products contain this chemical in their caramel coloring. Were these two soft drink giants to avoid making changes in their manufacturing process, they would be forced under Californian law to label their products as containing carcinogens. The changes are not being made to the products themselves, manufacturers are making changes to the manufacturing process. These changes result in a new recipe for caramel coloring that has less 4-MEI. This process is already underway in California as a result of the new declaration of 4-methylimidazole as a carcinogen and both Coke and Pepsi are expecting to roll out these changes across the US shortly.

What is 4-Methylimidazole?

4-methylimidazol, also known as 4-MEI, is an organic chemical compound that is formed through the browning of certain foods when the Maillard reaction takes place between amino compounds and carbohydrates. When caramel coloring is produced with ammonia-based processes 4-MEI is produced. The molecular formula for this chemical compound is as follows: H3C–C3H3N2.

4-methylimidazole can be found in a number of different foods and drinks in any concentration from fifty to seven hundred parts per million. The levels of this chemical compound found within coke products as well as many dark beers can be as high as one hundred micrograms per twelve ounces of the beverage.

What Does Research Say About 4-Methylimidazole?

The research on 4-Methylimidazole is controversial, but it has caused enough concern for California to deem it as a health issue. The majority of research on 4-MEI finds that at extremely high doses it causes a number of ill health effects in animals. At rates of around three hundred and sixty milligrams per kilogram of body weight, researchers have found that rabbits, chickens and mice all exhibit convulsions. In addition to this finding, in the 1960’s a group of cattle were fed with ammoniated sugar-containing cattle feed supplements and exhibited intoxication symptoms. In 2007, another study by the National Toxicology Program found that extremely high doses of 4-MEI were carcinogenic in mice and rats (interestingly though, only female rats).

Does 4-Methylimidazole Pose a Threat to Humans?

Despite the fact that researchers have found a link between high levels of 4-Methylimidazole consumption and various ill health effects in some animals, the FDA claims that there is little threat to humans. According to the US Food and Drug Administration, in order to recreate the levels of 4-MEI that were used in laboratory testing in mice and rats, a human would have to drink over a thousand cans of Coke or Pepsi in a single day.

California Adds 4-MEI to its List of Probable Carcinogens

In January of 2011, California added 4-MEI to its list of probable carcinogens with the stipulation that sixteen micrograms a day posed no significant risk. The problem with those sixteen micrograms is that it is a much lower level than found in popular drink products like Coke and Pepsi. While California stands by its decision to label the current levels of 4-MEI in these drinks as carcinogenic, the food industry has opposed the decision from the start.

Opposition to California’s Carcinogen Labeling by the Food Industry

According to the Food Industry, California’s decision to label 4-Methylimidazole as a carcinogenic compound was a poor one. The food industry has numerous questions about the validity of the study by the National Toxicology Program and deems that more research is necessary before 4-MEI is condemned. The reason behind this decision not to back California’s decision lies in the fact that the claim that 4-MEI is carcinogenic would cost the food industry exorbitant amounts of money. Every product with these caramel coloring agents in them would have to be relabeled as being potentially carcinogenic. Not only would this decision cost ridiculous amounts of money to the food industry, but it would also bankrupt numerous companies and cause something of a mass hysteria among consumers.

Coke and Pepsi Made Product Modifications

It was in March of 2012 that both Coca-Cola and Pepsi made the decision to make changes to their manufacturing process in order to sidestep the need for carcinogenic substance labeling. These changes were made by the soda manufacturing giants instructing their caramel color suppliers modify the manufacturing process of their coloring agents in order to meet the new standards of “safe levels” of 4-MEI in their coloring.

Why are Soft Drink Companies Changing Their Manufacturing Processes?

If the levels of 4-Methylimidazole found in Coke and Pepsi products are not high enough to cause any real concern, why then are these soft drink companies changing their manufacturing process? The simple fact of the matter is that if Coke and Pepsi wished to sell their product in California they had to alter their manufacturing process. Without reducing 4-Methylimidazole content, these companies would have been forced to place warnings on their products labeling them as possible carcinogens. Such labels would most likely cause a massive decline in product sales and the lost revenue for these soft drink giants would be devastating. Interestingly enough, while these corporate giants are concerned enough to make manufacturing changes to their products within the United States, they claim no plans for altering manufacturing processes in Europe. According to a statement by the Coca-Cola Company, no other regulatory agency around the world with the exception of California has found the presence of 4-Methylimidazole an issue.

Amy grew up in England and in the early 1990's moved to North Carolina where she completed a bachelors degree in Psychology in 2001. Amy's personal interest in writing was sparked by her love of reading fiction and her creative writing hobby. Amy is currently self employed as a freelance writer and web designer. When she is not working Amy can be found curled up with a good book and her black Labrador, Jet.

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4 Comments on "Coke and Pepsi Recipes Altered To Have Less 4-Methylimidazole"

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Anonymous
Many folks who are health conscious have know for quite some time that there are some very interesting and unusual chemicals in colored carbonated soda and soft drinks like Coke and Pepsi. After all, I remember as a kid in school seeing a science teacher do the old nail demonstration. Remember this? You pour a glass of Coke or Pepsi and then drop a nail in it. After some time, normally a few hours, the nail will be almost totally eaten through. As a kid I remember thinking that was such a cool demonstration. As I grew a little I started to wonder what caused all that. Even later, I started thinking what some of those chemicals must be doing to my own body as I drink these sodas. Yeah, it took me a while to catch on. I also remember hearing that many police forces have their officer’s carry around a bottle or two of Coke or Pepsi because it was highly effective at removing and cleaning blood from the highway. This is basically the same idea as the nail experiment.

Now we know what some of these chemicals are. The main culprit right now seems to be something called 4-Methylimidazole. This substance is found in the caramel coloring of both these sodas. According to the author it is an organic chemical compound that is formed through the browning of certain foods. Apparently something called a Mallard reaction occurs between amino compounds and carbohydrates.

That even sounds nasty! I also picked up in the article that ammonia is used in this process. Are you serious? They use ammonia to help produce some of the chemicals which are found in Coke and Pepsi. Wow. Also, it is noted that the levels of this 4-MEI compound can be as high as 100 mcg per 12 ounces, which is quite high. I also discovered that this compound is also found in dark beer. Darn, I used to like and drink dark beer!

While the research on this substance is controversial, the state of California is very concerned. They are so concerned that they have decided to take some action. They have actually decided to label 4-MEI as a potential carcinogen. This has caused Coke and Pepsi and the whole soft drink industry a great deal of concern, as you might imagine. While there have been links to cancer between this substance in lab animals, researchers have as yet not found anything which can directly link it to causing cancer in humans. Nevertheless, California is standing by its decision.

This has led many soft drink manufacturers to think about changing their formulas. Of course, we are not really sure as yet exactly what changes will be made, but certainly no one wants to have to put a warning label on their product which states that its consumption may cause cancer. Doing so could be the kiss of death. I certainly would not buy anything that had such a warning label. Would you?

Anonymous
All of this talk about Coke and Pepsi have potential cancer causing ingredients in their drinks got me thinking about what really is in there. I wondered how actually healthy or unhealthy many of the soft drinks we use on a regular basis really are. If you were to just take a very quick and cursory look at some of the internet articles and videos you will find all kinds of weird and fascinating information about these drinks. You will see all kinds of strange experiments. Most do not really prove anything, but they will leave you thinking about whether or not these products can have similar effects on the human body.

For me, I am more concerned about the dangers of diet soda. I think there is actually some serious issues here. It is certainly a good idea that Coke and Pepsi seem to finally be forced to change their formulations. Maybe we can get something that will be less damaging to our health. I am sure the police will be happy to find another way to remove blood from the highway.

Many people are tricked into drinking diet soda because they think it has no sugar. This may or may not be true, but there are a number of things much more damaging to your health than sugar. What most diet sodas all have in common is carbonated water with some artificial sweeteners, colorings and additives.

The thing which really got me up in arms is aspartame, an artificial sweetener. This is the same stuff that is used in things like NutraSweet and Equal. It also accounts for over 75 percent of the adverse reactions to food additives that are reported to the FDA. There have been a large amount of reactions, even serious effects including dizziness, seizures, numbness, muscle spasms, depression, tachycardia (rapid heartbeat), insomnia, vision problems, weight gain, heart palpitations, slurred speech and even joint pain. The list goes on, but you get the idea.

Some reports even show that aspartame contains 40 percent aspartic acid. They also have been reported to cause chronic neurological disorders and a number of other acute symptoms. Basically, too much aspartic acid causes neurons to die. This can also lead to a number of other damaging and chronic conditions. Long term exposure to such chemicals has been linked directly to problems like MS, ALS (Lou Gehrig Disease), memory loss, hormonal problems, hearing loss, epilepsy, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s, AIDS, dementia and brain lesions. Nasty stuff.

Ten percent of aspartame is methanol. This is an actual poison. Not only that but it actually breaks down in the body and turns into formaldehyde. Would anyone really want to ingest these ingredients if they were aware what is actually in here? I would strongly encourage everyone to stay away from these artificial sweeteners and avoid diet sodas as well. There is just no excuse to poison ourselves and our families for no good reason.

Kathy Faust
I’m not really sure what has to happen for people to realize how bad sodas are for you. They have zero healthy qualities. In fact, they don’t even hydrate. A liquid that we consume and it can’t hydrate but it can remove corrosion from a car battery? Seriously, what do we expect? Great, so the soda companies want to avoid having the cancer label on their product. How awesome for them. I certainly hope that people aren’t actually applauding this effort. A company that goes to such lengths to avoid a particular label but really doesn’t care how bad its product is for people…well is this the kind of company we want to keep giving our money to?

Here’s just a basic example: think about childhood obesity. When I was a kid, the only kids I knew that had any weight problems were kids that constantly drank soda in front of a television. My family was poor, so we drank Kool-Aid or water. I’m not saying Kool-Aid was better for you, but at least it’s not corrosive. But my point is that none of us were over-weight. We ate home cooked meals, did chores, and if we did actually get soda, it was a huge deal. Then I thought my parents were mean. Now I thank them for having some common sense.

Kathy Faust
Why on Earth do companies have to wait for a threat in order to do the right thing. It’s not as if Pepsi or Coke was never aware that these chemicals were harmful. Why isn’t there some kind of penalty for feeding this to people in the first place? Instead, they don’t do anything about it until they might lose money over it. This is a sad indication of what corporations are doing to people. Do you realize how long they’ve been using this and no one said a word about it? They didn’t make any changes before there was a threat to put something on their labels that would show they were feeding people poisonous materials. Since that would have cost them sales, they are now motivated to change the product.

The reality is that people keep feeding these people money without knowing how bad they are treating their families. Yes, everyone knows soda is bad, They just may not have known the details until now. I wonder what the next chemical will be that they have to change or be exposed. It’s just sickening. The more I see, the more I want to just grow my own foods and step away from the outside world altogether.

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