Is a Soda a Day a Real (Cancer) Risk for You?


Earlier this year, we heard the European Food Safety Authority confirming the safety of bisphenol A (BPA).  Just when I thought we were off to a good start, we’re now hearing about a recent study creating undue concern for today’s shopper.

You might recall last year when we posted the article “Let’s talk about Caramel Coloring and 4-MEI”.  Well, fast-forward to today and nothing has changed for our regulatory agencies (FDA and others) to question the safety of the foods and beverages that contain caramel coloring. 

If you don’t remember, let me refresh your memory about 4-MEI …

4-methylimidazole, also known as 4-MEI, has been in cooked foods since we began using fire.  It is a byproduct of the normal heating and browning of foods and beverages and is produced by heat in almost all foods, including caramel coloring.  4-MEI itself is never added to foods or beverages.  Recent news might make anyone think they are getting cancer from drinking carbonated beverages.

About THIS study …

Here’s what experts have to say.  This study starts with a California Proposition 65 “no significant risk level” (NRSL) of 29 micrograms per day, which is a lower level than what most experts—including the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, European Food Safety Authority, or even Health Canada—feel is appropriate, therefore blowing the actual risk out of proportion.  The NRSL is used as an indicator (or marker) to identify the potential for cancer risk.

The NRSL was derived from the results of a study in which animals were fed the equivalent of thousands of cans of cola every single day over their lifetimes, far and above what humans drink on a regular basis.  These animal studies should not be used to determine how much or how little cola you should be drinking.  Simply put, this level is unreasonable, and does not protect anyone’s health or affect the risk of cancer.

Hold the Phone!  No Need for Concern …

Experts and FDA agree the 4-MEI is not of concern.  And there’s no reason for you or me to be concerned at this time.  See FDA Q&A on 4-MEI

Here’s What you Need to Know …

“It is a shame that with so many important issues facing consumers, they could be so misled about safe products that have been consumed for decades.  Numerous rodent studies conducted in the U.S. and across the globe confirm that 4-MEI is not a major health concern for humans unless they consume 1,000 of the beverages tested per day.  Consumers are smarter than mice and likely won’t follow this latest Pied Piper purporting risk way out of context.”

—David Schmidt, President and CEO, IFIC/IFIC Foundation (from a March 2012 IFIC Foundation statement on 4-MEI)

Given what we know today about the safety of foods and beverages with caramel coloring, there’s no need to be concerned and no reason to change your diet based on the findings of this one study.  Enjoy your food and beverage purchases.