Cancer may now be linked to the consumption of soda, which now contain carcinogens, according to scientists. In a recent study done by researchers at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, the results showed that the caramel color used to manufacture many different colas with their familiar color, may be a carcinogen. In a recent study, laboratory tests were conducted on 11 different soft drinks, which analyzed the average consumption of soft drinks by a American, that found that just drinking one per day could be enough exposure to the potentially cancer-causing compound known as 4-MEI (4-methylimidazole).
Currently, California law mandates that soft drinks must carry a warning label if the drink contains enough 4-MEI to pose a greater risk of cancer for consumers. This risk is based upon data which concluded more than one case per 100,000 people exposed, just an exposure of 29 mcg of 4-MEI consumed every day.
The Johns Hopkins research team tested 110 soda samples, including nearly every kind of popular drink. The team found that the drinks contained levels of the cancer-causing agent that ranged from 9.5 mcg per liter to 963 mcg per liter. The team was shocked by the massive range of 4-MEI levels. Concentrations of 4-MEI varied greatly by brand of soda and the state in which it was purchased. The researchers concluded that although the 4-MEI in sodas varied in regards to brand and location of manufacturing, they were generally consistent across many of the same drink purchased in the same geographical area.
They explained continuous consumption of beverages with 4-MEI levels higher than 29 mcg may lead to a greater risk of cancer in consumers. The cases of cancer regarding the 4-MEI compound have been documented and studied by the U.S. National Toxicology Program. The researchers claim there is not enough data from individual brands of drinks to recommended one with the lowest risk of exposure to the cancer-causing agent, though state regulatory standards have been effective in reducing to cancer-causing compounds in other beverages.
Tyler Smith, lead author of the study and program officer with the Johns Hopkins Center for a Liveable Future, states 4-MEI levels can vary greatly across different samples, even those in the same type of drink. He explains some diet sodas may have a smaller 4-MEI concentrations, while those produced in another area could have higher levels of the cancer-causing agent. After sampling, his team found that Malta Goya, a carbonated malt drink, had the highest concentration of 4-MEI and Coca-Cola, one of the oldest and largest names in the beverage business, had the lowest concentration, thus the lowest risk for cancer exposure.
In 2011, California listed 4-MEI as a carcinogen, under the Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986 – commonly known as Proposition 65. The authors of the study stated since 4-MEI increases the risk of cancer to consumers, federal regulations may be an appropriate measure. The team is concerned that 4-MEI poses such a potential risk for cancer. The unnecessary exposure to 4-MEI poses a dire threat to public and may raise questions into the continued use of caramel coloring in soft drinks that have been proven to cause cancer.
By Alex Lemieux
Photo by Didriks – Flickr License