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March 7, 2012

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Home » Metro » Health and Science

Coca-Cola responds to cancer accusation

Coca-Cola China said yesterday that its products were safe to drink as it denied accusations by a consumer group in the United States that its soft drinks contained high levels of a cancer-causing chemical.

The Center for Science in the Public Interest said it had found "unsafe" levels of a carcinogenic chemical used to make caramel coloring in soft drinks, including Coca-Cola and Pepsi products.

The center is petitioning the United States Food and Drug Administration to ban the use of caramel coloring that contains chemicals 4-MEI and 2-MEI, which the group said were determined to be carcinogens by the State of California.

"These imidazole-containing colorings may be causing hundreds or thousands of cancers in the American population," said the group.

It said some research had shown that the additives had caused cancer in mice and rats under laboratory conditions.

In response, Coca-Cola China issued a statement on its official website, insisting: "Our beverages are completely safe."

"CSPI's statement irresponsibly insinuates that the caramel used in our beverages is unsafe and maliciously raises cancer concerns among consumers," said the statement.

"In fact, studies show that the caramel we use does not cause cancer. Further, the caramel we use does not contain the 2-MEI alleged by CSPI."

The company said that extrapolations by CSPI to human health and cancer were totally unfounded.

The group's report was also objected to by the American Beverage Association, which issued a statement denouncing the group's action and condemning its claims as "scare tactics."

"This is nothing more than CSPI scare tactics, and their claims are outrageous," the association said.

"CSPI fraudulently claims to be operating in the interest of the public's health when it is clear its only motivation is to scare the American people," it said.

The FDA is said in media reports to be reviewing the group's petition, but it also said that the drinks from PepsiCo Inc and Coca-Cola Co posed no risk to human health.

In a statement, an FDA spokesman said a person would have to consume well over 1,000 cans of soda a day to reach the doses administered in the studies that are said to have shown links to cancer in rodents.

Hao Fengtong, an official with Beijing's Chaoyang Hospital, told the Legal Evening News that 4-MEI was a chemical widely used in caramel agents in China in the production of cola and other soft drinks, soy sauces and beer.

The newspaper report said that the World Health Organization allows adding caramel agents containing 4-MEI in food. But the quantity of 4-MEI should be lower than 200 milligrams per kilogram of caramel agents.

So far, Pepsi has not made any comment on the cancer claims.


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