Coke, Pepsi make changes to avoid cancer warning

Fri Mar 9, 2012 4:41pm EST

Cases of Pepsi are displayed for sale in Carlsbad, California February 7, 2012. PepsiCo Inc. will report their earnings February 9. REUTERS/Mike Blake

Cases of Pepsi are displayed for sale in Carlsbad, California February 7, 2012. PepsiCo Inc. will report their earnings February 9.

Credit: Reuters/Mike Blake

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(Reuters) - Coca-Cola Co and PepsiCo Inc are making changes to the production of an ingredient in their namesake colas to avoid the need to label the packages with a cancer warning.

The change will not be noticeable to consumers, according to statements from both companies.

Coke and Pepsi said on Friday that they had asked their suppliers of the caramel coloring in their colas to alter their manufacturing process to meet the requirements of a California ballot initiative aiming to limit people's exposure to toxic chemicals.

"Consumers will notice no difference in our products and have no reason at all for any health concerns," said PepsiCo spokeswoman Gina Anderson in a statement.

The change is meant to reduce the amount of a chemical called 4-methylimidazole, or 4-MI, which in January was added to the list of chemicals covered by California's Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986, also known as Proposition 65.

High levels of that chemical have been linked to cancer in animals.

The California statute says that "no person in the course of doing business shall knowingly and intentionally expose any individual to a chemical known to the state to cause cancer or reproductive toxicity without first giving a clear and reasonable warning ..."

Coca-Cola spokesman Ben Sheidler said the modification to the manufacturing process will have no effect on the formula, color or taste of Coca-Cola.

Both companies said they started in California, and would expand the use of the reduced 4-MI caramel coloring over time.

Dr Pepper Snapple Group Inc said all the caramel color being produced for it meets the new California standard.

Earlier this week, the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), a U.S. watchdog group, said it found unsafe levels of the chemical in cans of Coca-Cola, Pepsi-Cola, Dr Pepper and Whole Foods Markets Inc's 365 Cola.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration said at the time it was reviewing the group's petition but stressed that the drinks were still safe. An FDA spokesman said a person would have to drink "well over a thousand cans of soda a day to reach the doses administered in the studies that have shown links to cancer in rodents".

Shares of Coke and Pepsi were both up less than 1 percent in afternoon trade, roughly in line with the Standard & Poor's 500 index. Dr Pepper Snapple shares were up 1.1 percent at $38.12.

(Reporting By Martinne Geller in New York; Editing by Tim Dobbyn and Gerald E. McCormick)

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Comments (15)
jhawk wrote:
California’s a hazardous place to live–everything there either causes cancer or birth defects.

Mar 09, 2012 2:35pm EST  --  Report as abuse
blueskies18 wrote:
Shame on them for waiting until the government puts a gun to their heads to change the recipe. I read about this carcinogen at least a year ago and stopped drinking the stuff. My immune system has plenty to deal with having to deal with things like BPA and other chemicals that I don’t even know about. I can’t believe Coke and Pepesi didn’t do this voluntarily as soon as they knew about it. This is why we need the government to go after greedy businesses who can’t behave honorably.

Mar 09, 2012 5:08pm EST  --  Report as abuse
touch128 wrote:
Well I don’t know if by changeing a name or moving something around is going to make any difference. But I think all of us would like to know how long they have known this. Remember that if it may cause cancer in animals it WILL cause cancer in humans. The more we look into this the more I am convinced the food we eat is the trigger to most of the cancer in humans. I also wonder how many people know this and how long they have keep it quiet ?

Mar 09, 2012 5:55pm EST  --  Report as abuse
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