By Hwaa Irfan
As the world eases out of what has been a turbulent winter, and spring is trying to enter, for those who can afford it, it is all too easy to reach out for that thirst quenching drink, especially if one is physically active. Seizing the opportunity, companies that specialize in producing soft drinks will look out for that little thing extra to encourage the consumer to keep coming back for more. It has all become too much of a habit, when it is not that difficult to make one’s soda-free soft drinks at home, but all the same those companies know that we cannot resist just reaching out for a can, pulling back the ring, and hitting the spot at the back of the throat the benefit of which does not last long.
If one is familiar with a real cola drink, then one knows there is a big difference between that and that which we have become accustomed to. The Cola and Pepsi companies have been busy ensuring that we will come back for more, by adding that little extra something new each year. The little extra something in this case concerns the unnatural caramel coloring employed by the top brands. The coloring is produced by the reaction of sugars with ammonia and sulfites. The reaction is the resulting 2-methylimidazole and 4- methylimidazole, which are recognized cancer causing agents, recognized by the U.S. government to cause cancer in mammals, of which humans are mammals.
The Washington-based, Center for Science in the Public Interest (lack of online access to their material which seems suspicious) provided the evidence which led to them filing a petition to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to ban the chemicals concerned. Previously, studies requested by the National Cancer Institute, and carried out by the National Toxicology Program identified that 2-methylimidazole and 4- methylimidazole have been used in foods, and has been detected in tobacco smoke. The National Toxicology Program also found the two chemicals to be carcinogenic in their 2003, and 2005 studies. Not surprisingly, the FDA have done nothing about it, but California responded by demanding foods being appropriately labeled where ingredients are known to cause cancer. This unfortunately, will not become effective until January 2012, and companies (California League of Food Processors, the American Beverage Association, the Grocery Manufacturers Association, and the National Coffee Association), putting profit above the health of their customers have sued California. California now has legal limits in place on the consumption of 4- methylimidazole, a limit set at a maximum of 16 micrograms daily, when cola drinks contain approximately 200 micrograms in a 20 ounce bottle, but the best thing to do in the meantime is to not drink cola or pepsi.
2-Methylimidazole is used by pharmaceutical companies in the processing of agrochemicals, dyes, and as a curing agent in the manufacturing of polyurethane. 2-Methylimidazole flakes are listed as hazardous by the chemical company BASF, Canada. They consider that the flakes are corrosive to the skin, eyes, and respiratory system. BASF lists 2-Methylimidazole as a carcingogenic that is toxic to fish, and aquatic vertebrates, and that it should be neutralized before entering the sewerage system.
Adams, M. “Cancer Causing Chemicals Found in Color Coloring Ingredient.”
“Safety Data Sheet: -Methylimidazole Flakes.” http://worldaccount.basf.com/wa/NAFTA/Catalog/ChemicalsNAFTA/doc4/BASF/PRD/30037079/.pdf?title=&asset_type=msds/pdf&language=EN&validArea=CA&urn=urn:documentum:ProductBase_EU:09007af880098096.pdf
Weise, E. “Group Urges Caramel Coloring in Cola Be Banned. http://www.usatoday.com/money/industries/food/2011-02-21-colacolor21_ST_N.htm