The additive caramel colour is once again in the news with regards to its use in popular cola drinks such as Coke and Pepsi and hundreds of other drinks and probably thousands of processed food products. There are 4 major caramel colours used in the food industry and 4-Me-1 is in two of them. 4-Me-1 has tested positive to cancer on laboratory tests on mice.
Ingredients in Cola Drinks
What are cola soft drinks made of - here are the ingredients listed (in order of quantity) :
- Carbonated water - "research found a connection between carbonated cola drinks and low bone mineral density" from Mayo Clinic
- Caramel colour agent 4-Me-1 is a probable carcinogenic although Health Canada says it is not a health risk
- Phosphoric acid - slows growth of molds in pop
- Aspartame (contains phenylalanine) - continuing controversial artificial sweetener and possible carcinogenic
- Potassium Bromate - carcinogenic in rats - a renal carcinogen
- Natural flavour - Coca Cola does not list its natural flavours as this is part of the "secret formula". Natural flavours in food usually include MSG - are natural additives any healthier than artificial (chemical) flavours; was a chemical used to extract the natural flavour from the fruit; is the source from an animal product (vegetarian concern). Three good questions
- Potassium Citrate - regulates acidity - information on adverse health effects (tablet form)
- Acesulfame-potassium - is another artificial sweetener and another possible carcinogenic
- Caffeine (caffeinism) - the most widely used stimulant in the world (Medscape)
is used in soft drinks (mostly colas) and extensively in other processed food products such as: beers, bread, chocolates, baked goods, liquors, candy, desserts, potato chips, fruit preserves, gravy, ice cream, pickles, sauces, vinegar and much more.
is not a food additive but evidently a byproduct of caramel processing (heating, or perhaps fermentation) which is why it does not show up on a food label (except as caramel color). There is enough concern that manufacturers are further limiting the content of this chemical in their drinks and the FDA is reviewing 4-Me-1 for safety especially with regard to children's daily consumption. When there is concern in the news media from international health organizations such as WHO this should alert parents of a potential problem. The following quote although referring to pesticides also in my opinion pertains to chemicals in our food:
“A Who's Who of pesticides is therefore of concern to us all. If we are going to live so intimately with these chemicals eating and drinking them, taking them into the very marrow of our bones - we had better know something about their nature and their power.”
― Rachel Carson, Silent Spring
Brief history of Cola Drinks
Cola drinks (specifically Coca Cola) have been around since the 1880's and contained cocaine in the early 1900's. Since the beginning, advertising has played an important part in its success up to today as a top-selling international pop drink selling hundreds of billions of drinks per annum. According to their website the Coca Cola Co sells 1.7 billion servings of Coca‑Cola every day (2010 annual report) - and that's just coke! The company spent $2.9 billion on advertising worldwide (2010) and its annual revenue makes it a larger economy than some countries.
This almost iconic drink has been around for so long it is an acceptable part of life for millions of people, not only in North America but the entire world. It is difficult to understand why this continues in light of the recent negative publicity linking soda pop to widespread obesity - increased diabetes, strokes and possible carcinogenicity of some of its ingredients. Now health services are suggesting that young children, or persons with health concerns, should not be given soda drinks. Even if the jury is out on caramel colour with 4-Me-1 reducing soft drink consumption for the previous reasons seems like a logical conclusion.
Ultimately the choice to buy these products is yours.
Notes & Suggestions
- There is an extensive amount of data available on the consumption and negative health concerns of the additive aspartame - here's 92 side effects of aspartame for starters
- Avoid pop, especially colas - replace with water, fresh fruit and vegetable juice drinks. Some more healthy drink suggestions and some to avoid from Harvard Medical
- Continue also to read food and beverage labels to check for unhealthy synthetic food additives, including high sugar content and of course "caramel colour". Information on label reading
- Link to Caramel and Parsley updated About
Caramel colour is widely used in soda drinks and food processing; is a common allergen
and some claim toxic at least, carcinogenic at worst
From Caramel and Parsley "About" (2010)
Links & References
- Consumers Report on 4-Me-1 in soda drinks
- World wide consumption of Coca Cola by country
- Caramel (4-Methylimidazole) from Wikipedia
- And give your heart a chance from the American Heart Association
- Sugar (sucrose) is a normal sweetener in soda drinks.
- But high-fructose corn syrup also used as a drink sweetener
- Phenylalanine (artificial sweetener) health information from Mayo Clinic