Responsible for giving colas their popular brown look, a widely used food coloring known as caramel coloring may be increasing your cancer risk. Consumer watchdog group Center for Sciences in the Public Interest is so consumed over caramel coloring that they have been urging the Food and Drug Administration for quite some time to ban the use of the ingredient.
Caramel Coloring Shown to be Causing Health Complications
First writing the FDA in 2011, CSPI mentioned how 2-methylimidazole (2-MI) and 4-methylimidazole (4-MI), which form upon creation of caramel coloring, are causing lung, liver, and thyroid cancer in mice. In a more recent letter written by the CSPI executive director Michael F. Jacobson to FDA Commissioner Dr. Margaret Hamburg, Jacobson told the commissioner how recent lab analyses showed very high levels of 4-MI in sodas. The state of California recommends a limit of 29 micrograms for 4-MI, but the analyses showed levels exceeding that by nearly 5 times.
“When most people see ‘caramel coloring’ on food labels, they likely interpret that quite literally and assume the ingredient is similar to what you might get by gently melting sugar in a saucepan. The reality it quite different,” said Jacobson in a statement.
“The caramel coloring added to soft drinks serves a totally cosmetic function,…we suspect that most consumers would prefer a clear beverage without an unnecessary carcinogen over a dark-brown beverage with a carcinogen,” the letter said.