When the Center for Environmental Health released test results showing that Pepsi intentionally covered up the existence of high levels of 4-Mel in its popular soft drinks in 2013, the company denied both the presence of this chemical in its drinks and that it was dangerous. 4-Mel, which is short for 4-Methylimidazole, is a compound that is formed in the manufacturing of caramel coloring, and is a known carcinogen.
Since then, the drinks maker has fought against complying with California state requirements to put a cancer caution label on the drinks that contain the component, which include not only Pepsi, however also Diet Pepsi and Pepsi One.
Now, a settlement in a class action lawsuit against Pepsi has gained preliminary approval from a federal judge in California. As part of the proposed settlement, Pepsi has actually agreed to ensure its caramel coloring’s 4-Mel levels do not go beyond 100 parts per billion in products that are being delivered for sale within the U.S. They will also be required to test the soda using specific protocols.
The soda giant also agreed to these measures in a different lawsuit that was settled in a California state court last year. The new settlement, however, expands the reach of these measures from California to the entire nation.
Pepsi failed to warn consumers that its drinks contain known carcinogens
The claim accused Pepsi of failing to warn people that its drinks contain 4-Mel, which California has officially recognized as a cancer-causing chemical.
A 2014 Customer Reports test showed that the 4-Mel in Pepsi exceeded the allowed level of 29 micrograms per bottle or can, which would imply that they remained in violation of common law and customer protection statutes in the state of California.
In particular, this violates California’s Proposal 65, which has been in place since 1985, and requires manufacturers to offer customers with clear cautions when their products will expose them to poisonous or cancer-causing chemicals.
The state’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment set the cutoff at 29 micrograms since that level produces a risk of cancer of one in 100,000.
Pointing out a 2013 Mintel and Leatherhead Food Research report, Consumer Reports said that caramel coloring is the world’s most extensively used food coloring. At the time, Pepsi tried to say that since Prop 65 refers to exposure per day rather than exposure per can, and that the average amount of diet soda that its drinkers consume daily is less than a can, there was no need to put a warning on it. Consumer Reports disagreed, however.
“No matter how much consumers drink they don’t expect their drinks to have a potential carcinogen in them. And we do not believe 4-MeI should be in foods at all. Our tests of Coke samples show that it is possible to get to much lower levels,” toxicologist Dr. Urvashi Rangan stated.
Is drinking soda really worth risking cancer and obesity?
It just does not make good sense for people to expose themselves unnecessarily to an ingredient that merely serves to color their food, and customers can know what they are putting in their bodies. The popularity of books like Food Forensics serves to highlight the growing desire by Americans to understand what ingredients their food products consist of.
The cancer-causing caramel coloring in Pepsi is not the only reason customers must stay away from it. Sodas are also believed to be behind the nation’s obesity epidemic. A UCLA study discovered that adults who consumed one sugary beverage such as a soda every day had a 27 percent higher possibility of being classified as overweight than those who did not drink such drinks. Additionally, drinking just one soda every day adds up to an overall of 39 pounds of sugar each year! That means that regular soda drinkers can cut their risk of obesity and cancer in one fell swoop merely by quitting the habit for good.