In an expected move, Coca-Cola has modified its caramel color ingredients in response to cancer accusations.
One of the ingredients in the original recipe for Coca-Cola was apparently caramel.
As the recipe has undergone modifications over the years, the soda now gets its caramel colour from a mixture containing compound 4-methylimidazole, also known as 4-MI or 4-MEI.
It is used in other colas, too, like Pepsi. But the Center for Science in the Public Interest has asserted that it is a known carcinogen and has no place in food supply.
Now that the CSPI has petitioned the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to ban it, and California has added the compound to its list of known carcinogens, Coca-Cola says it will switch to a new formulation, allowing the company to avoid cancer-warning labels on cans in California, Discovery News reported.
"The company did make the decision to ask its caramel suppliers to make the necessary manufacturing process modifications to meet the requirement of the State of California," Diana Garza Ciarlante, a Coca-Cola spokeswoman, told National Public Radio, insisting that its colouring has always been safe.
"The fact is that the body of science about 4-MEI in foods or beverages does not support the erroneous allegations that CSPI would like the public to believe," she said.
The FDA has claimed that people would have to drink more than 1,000 cans of soda a day to cause any concern.
"Carcinogenic colorings have no place in the food supply, especially considering that their only function is a cosmetic one," Michael Jacobson, CSPI's executive director, said in a press release.
The group also maintains that the label is misleading.
"Most people would interpret 'caramel coloring' to mean 'colored with caramel,' but this particular ingredient has little in common with ordinary caramel or caramel candy," Jacobson said. It's a concentrated dark brown mixture of chemicals that simply does not occur in nature. Regular caramel isn't healthful, but at least it is not tainted with carcinogens," Jacobson added.
The supplier revealed that it modified the colour by changing the manufacturing process to decrease the levels of 4-MI, altering the temperature, pressure and ingredients.
Coke has asserted that the consumers will not be able to notice the difference.