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Caramel Coloring Increases Cancer Risk

Caramel Colouring May be Carcinogenic

The caramel color is used to impart the amber hue to imitation maple syrups in the US, contains a substance known as 4-Mel, which is recognized as a carcinogenic. Forget about the alliteration, but look a bit closer at the recently released report that suggests that lovers of waffles and pancakes, who smother the goodies with large amounts of caramel colored syrup, may be increasing the risk of developing cancer. It is the same ingredient that gives the colas the popular caramel color. According to reports in American Consumer Reports magazine, some of the caramel coloring, containing 4-methylimidazole has come under the spotlight recently, after testing shows that two of the soda brands, Pepsi and Goya contain more than the maximum recommended levels, and did not have any cancer warnings. Consumer Reports tested more than 81 samples of sodas, from five different manufacturers.

The tests for the Pancake syrup examined 4 different pancake syrup brands made in the US, and all 4 contained 4-Mel. The brands in question were Aunt Jemima, Smucker’s Hungry Jack, Mrs. Butterworth, and Log Cabin Original. Consumer Reports safety director, Urvashi Rangan,  says there is cause for concern, because it is not possible to recommend any particular brand, but there is a definite cancer risk that comes from the consumption of either of the brands.

Smuckers’s Hungry Jack contained the highest levels of 4-MeI at 38 micrograms per 1/4 cups, while the Log Cabin Original had the lowest level 11.5 micrograms per 1/4 cup. One brand of 100 percent pure Maple syrup was tested, and B & G Foods Maple Grove Farms product was found to contain only 0.7 micrograms per 1/4 cup. The magazine recommends that consuming 2 servings of the pancake syrup with the lowest level of 4-Mel would reduce the risk to being negligible, but research shows that some children between the ages of one to five consume syrup daily, which increases the risk. It is not the syrup that increases the risk, but the 4-Mel.

There may be solid evidence to prove that caramel coloring increases the risk of developing cancer. In December of 2013, some 355 ml cans of Pepsi One, that were distributed in New York contained almost 161 micrograms of 4-Mel, which is far more than contained in the same amount of Coke. He further adds that the concern is greater in soft drinks because people consume less syrup than colas. The reports also show that the amount of 4-Mel in many of the products have been decreasing, and it suggests that manufacturers may be reducing the levels, as they have stated that reformulated products containing lower levels of 4-Mel will soon be available.

Consumer Reports adopt the opinion that foods should not contain carcinogenics, and is alerting the Attorney General’s office in California, where the tests were conducted, about the findings. They are also petitioning the FDA, so that some guidelines can be set, and in the meantime they are asking that manufacturers list the type of caramel coloring on the list of ingredients. Currently there are 4 types of caramel coloring, and only 2 contain the 4-Mel, but manufacturers use the term artificial color without any indication of what the substance may be.

The FDA says that they are conducting their own tests and investigations to determine what, if any action is necessary. Consumers are encouraged to express their concerns at the Consumers Union’s website, and until guidelines are established, they should consume less products that list caramel coloring or artificial color as one of the ingredients, as evidence suggests that caramel coloring can increase the risk of developing cancer.

Written By Dale Davidson

CTV News
Consumer Reports

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