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caramel-colouring

FDA re-studying caramel colouring in soda

The agency’s announcement comes in response to a study by Consumer Reports, the non-profit organisation which promotes consumer rights, that shows varying levels of 4-methylimidazole — an impurity formed in some caramel colouring at low levels during the manufacturing process — in 12 brands of soda from five manufacturers.

The FDA says it has already studied the use of caramel as a flavour and colour additive for decades and it has no reason to believe the colouring used is unsafe. The agency said it is also reviewing new data on the safety of 4-methylimidazole but did not say what that data is.

“These efforts will inform the FDA’s safety analysis and will help the agency determine what, if any, regulatory action needs to be taken,” said FDA spokeswoman Juli Putnam.

There are no federal limits on the amount of 4-methylimidazole, which the FDA says can also form in trace amounts when coffee beans are roasted or some meats are grilled.

The Consumer Reports study urged the agency to set a maximum level of the substance when it is artificially added to foods or soda, to require labeling when it is added and to bar products from carrying the “natural” label if they contain caramel colours.

There are no federal limits on the amount of 4-methylimidazole, which the FDA says can also form in trace amounts when coffee beans are roasted or some meats are grilled.

The Consumer Reports study urged the agency to set a maximum level of the substance when it is artificially added to foods or soda, to require labeling when it is added and to bar products from carrying the “natural” label if they contain caramel colours.

“There is no reason why consumers need to be exposed to this avoidable and unnecessary risk that can stem from colouring food and beverages brown,” said Consumer Reports’ Dr. Urvashi Rangan, a toxicologist and lead investigator on the study.

Though studies have not been conclusive about whether 4-methylimidazole is a carcinogen, California includes it on the state list of carcinogens and a state law mandates a cancer warning label on products that have a certain level of the substance. In reaction to that law, Coke, Pepsi and other soft drink makers have directed their caramel-colour suppliers to reduce the levels of 4-methylimidazole. It is not found in all caramel colourings.

Over an eight-month period, the study found that single servings of two products purchased in California, Pepsi One and the beverage Malta Goya, exceeded the 29 micrograms of 4-methylimidazole that are the threshold in California but carried no warning. Consumer Reports has asked the California attorney general’s office to investigate; a spokesman for the attorney general says the office is reviewing the request.

PepsiCo spokeswoman Aurora Gonzalez said the company is “extremely concerned” about the study and believes it is factually incorrect.

Healthland.Time.com: Read more

Questions & Answers on Caramel Colouring and 4-MEI

www.fda.gov/food/ingredientspackaginglabeling/…/ucm364184.htm

Information for consumers about 4-MEI levels expected in food from the use of caramel colouring.

COMMENT by Bob Messenger, Publisher & Editor, The Morning Cup, and foremost US food industry commentator

In 4-MEI debate, science replaced by activist agenda

“There was a time when Consumer Reports was practically the family bible. My mom, she never bought anything until she read the review of a product in Consumer Reports. But something is going on at Consumer Reports that is a little disturbing. It’s as if the outfit I once trusted unequivocally has slipped more and more into the consumer activist camp, reviewing and commenting on issues dear to the hearts of every hardcore activist.

Like the caramel colouring debate. CR recently took to the podium with its latest earth-shaking report: It found higher than expected levels of a potentially cancer-causing agent (4-methylimidazole aka 4-MEI) in some soft drinks. The FDA has investigated 4-MEI and concluded there is no scientific evidence to support a claim that the compound is unsafe. But this is a different FDA.

Unlike previous FDAs, this one doesn’t just feel the pressure from consumer groups, it reacts to it. So the FDA says it will again look into 4-MEI after the CR complaint. There was a time when the work of scientists and science was always a deciding factor in determining the safety of the foods and ingredients we consume. Today, activism, and those who engineer it, seem to be at the throttle of government and agency decision-making. That doesn’t make me feel safer.”

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