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CocaCola rejects cancercausing claim

By Li Xiang (Global Times)

16:49, June 28, 2012

A substance named 4methylimidazole (4-MEI) contained in the caramel coloring that helps make the unique color of CocaCola does not pose any threat to human health, the soft drinks maker said Wednesday.

The response was aimed at refuting a news report by the British newspaper Daily Mail, which claimed that the coloring is linked to cancer, and campaigners are calling for it to be banned.

The newspaper also quoted research by US group Center For Science In The Public Interest with the UK's Children's Food Campaign as saying that the amount of 4-MEI found in regular 355millimeter CocaCola cans sold in China is 56 micrograms, some 14 times above the 4microgram level in the US.

Still, the reading of China is dwarfed by the UK's 135 micrograms per 355 milliliters and Brazil's 267.

The company said in a statement sent to the Global Times that it is still making full efforts to develop a timeline for the expansion of the use of the reduced 4-MEI caramel globally as a way of streamlining and simplifying their supply chain, manufacturing and distribution systems.

A California court in the US ruled last December that 4-MEI could be listed as a known carcinogen and set a 29microgram limit in products. Any product purchased by consumers higher than that daily level must carry a warning label.

Chen Min, a professor with China Agricultural University, said that during her years of research on 4-MEI, she has not heard of this caramelembedded substance being linked to cancer.

"The caramel coloring has been used on demand, a dose slightly bigger than required will spoil the color manufacturers want," Chen added. "Considering the small amount of coloring, the 4-MEI reading can be ignored."

However, the company did not provide the reason why the reading of 4-MEI in a can of Coke from China is some 14 times more than that detected in the US, under the company's standards for manufacturing.

But according to a reply given to the Global Times from CocaCola, the supply of caramel coloring is so varied that for each country there may be several or no suppliers of the ingredient.

"I assume the coloring's distinct artificially synthetic process followed by different manufacturers is the reason for the varied levels of 4-MEI in the same product sold in different countries," Fan Zhihong, a professor with the College of Food Science and Nutritional Engineering of China Agricultural University, told the Global Times.

"If the manufacturing codes are followed strictly, the amount of 4-MEI will be relatively low," Fan added.

However, Fan noted that the public should not be concerned by the concentration of 4-MEI.

"This substance exists in a wide range of food and seasonings that we savor every day, in other words, unless you saturate yourself all day long in those darkcolored baked goods or guzzle Coke nonstop, an excessive intake is not likely to occur," Fan said.

The World Health Organization allows 4-MEI in caramel coloring in food, and China sets a limit of such substances at an amount accounting for less than 0.02 percent.


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