* CSPI says coloring additive may lead to cancer
* Pure caramel should be used instead -CSPI
WASHINGTON, Feb 16 (Reuters) - Some chemically enhanced caramel food colorings used in widely consumed cola drinks could cause cancer and should be banned, a U.S. consumer advocacy group urged the Food and Drug Administration on Wednesday.
Pure caramel is made from melted sugar; but two other approved versions to color food products include the chemical ammonia and produce compounds shown to cause various cancers in animal studies, the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) said in a statement.
The group is petitioning the FDA to ban the ammonia-containing caramels, which are also used in other dark-colored soft drinks.
Obesity is still a greater health threat from soda, but the chemical reaction between sugar and ammonia can form carcinogens and “still may be causing thousands of cancers in the U.S. population,” the group said, citing animal studies conducted by government researchers at the National Institutes of Health.
“Carcinogenic colorings have no place in the food supply, especially considering that their only function is a cosmetic one,” CSPI executive director Michael Jacobson said in the statement. (Reporting by Susan Heavey; Additional reporting by Martinne Geller in New York; Editing by Gerald E. McCormick)