American Beverage Association

February 16, 2011

Caramel Coloring: The Tall Tale for Today

It’s getting ridiculous out there. Today, yet another outrageous and egregious attempt to dupe and scare the public was made, this time by an activist group called CSPI. This is a group that makes its living bashing the food and beverage industry. So what do they have to do to stay afloat? Find new ways to bash the food and beverage industry: Facts be damned!

Their latest attempt at “science-by-press-release” tried to whip up a scare that caramel coloring is harmful to consumers via a byproduct called 4-MEI. First, 4-MEI is virtually ubiquitous.  It’s found in a wide variety of foods and beverages, from baked goods and breads to molasses and coffee.  It forms during the heating, roasting or cooking process.  Caramel color is not a threat to human health even when it contains minute amounts of 4-MEI. Studies show that and FDA has agreed by classifying caramel color as generally recognized as safe. And that’s the affirmed position of the federal government’s health agencies, as well as regulatory agencies around the world.

Even the National Toxicology Program, the very group CSPI tries to cite in making its case, has not classified 4-MEI as a cancer causing agent, a fact which actually throws cold water all over the activists’ zealotry.

The National Toxicology Program (NTP) does not identify 4-MEI as even “reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen.” Click on the hyperlink for the details. Furthermore, Dr. Ernest McConnell, former NTP Director of NTP’s Toxicology Research and Testing Program, wrote that “4-MEI does not have sufficient evidence of carcinogenicity to be placed on the list.”

But there’s real world evidence as well. Consumers can take confidence in the fact that people have been safely drinking colas for more than a century, as well as consuming the wide variety of foods and beverages containing caramel coloring.  This petition is not based on sound science and is unnecessarily raising the fears of consumers.

Common sense would seem to also tell folks that our companies – some of which have been successfully in business for more than 100 years – would never put the safety of their consumers at risk. Safety is always their top priority.

Maybe some need to start taking a long, hard look at groups like CSPI, the misinformation they continue to peddle and the pecuniary interests they maliciously protect at the expense of the public’s interest. These folks should have to answer for the mud they sling.

These baseless and reckless attacks are beyond getting old.  It’s to the point that the public doesn’t know what health news to believe thanks to the sensational “study of the day” that promises to doom us all.


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