According to the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), the compounds in the caramel coloring in many soft drinks has been shown to cause lung, liver, and thyroid cancer in lab mice and rats. Because of these findings, the CSPI has called on the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to ban the use of caramel coloring. The guilty ingredients are 2-methylimidazole (2-MEI) and 4-methylimidazole (4-MEI). These compounds form when sugar is mixed with ammonia and sulfites. It may not effect the flavor, but it creates the caramel, or brown color.
This year the state of California determined that 4-MEI qualified as a carcinogen. Because of this ruling, companies using that coloring compound would be required to print cancer warnings on their packages or reformulate their products. Further, the CSPI said their recent lab studies found that the 4-MEI levels in many 12-ounce sodas exceeded the 29 microgram limit set by California law.
“The body of science about 4-MEI in foods or beverages does not support the erroneous allegations that CSPI would like the public to believe,” said a Coca-Cola representative. “The 4-MEI levels in our products pose no health or safety risks.”
Regardless of the debate, Coca-Cola has decided to change its manufacturing process rather than print cancer warnings on their drinks.
I have often joked that I am addicted to diet soda. I turn to the tasty beverage to get me through my work day and then have another one after work each day. It tastes good, has no calories, and gives me a little caffeine rush that I have come to depend on to get through my busy days. While diet soda isn’t healthy in the least, when I compare myself to Darren Jones, a 38-year man from the United Kingdom, I have nothing to worry about.
Jones drinks 42 liters of Diet Coke every week, and in an effort to help himself kick the habit, he wants to check himself into rehab. He spends £100 each week on his habit, and it is damaging both his own life and his relationship with his wife.
“I believe what I have is an actual addiction and I start to worry if I’m getting near the end of the bottle,” Jones said. “If I can’t get in touch with [my wife] Paula to get me some more I start to panic – it’s like a drug or alcohol addiction.”
Jones started drinking soda when he was 13-years old and worked in a local market. Since then, his habit has evolved into drinking the equivalent of 18 cans of soda every day for the past 10 years. He used to drink regular Coke but changed to diet when he started to gain weight.