American Beverage Association

March 5, 2012

CSPI: Scaring People for No Reason…Again.

Are they really at it again?

You might have read today about how the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) is unjustifiably alerting people to the alleged dangers of colas and the caramel used to color and flavor it, as well as a host of other foods and beverages.  And this time they’re overreaching with even more outrageous claims that are not based in science or fact.

The science simply doesn’t show that caramel coloring in foods or beverages is a threat to human health.   But, of course the folks over at CSPI are playing fast and loose with the facts and would have you believe that a shaky-at-best California ruling should carry enough weight to have you running for the hills.  Here’s where things really stand, as referenced in our media statement released today:  California added 4-MEI to its list of carcinogens with no studies showing that it causes cancer in humans.  California’s listing was based on a single study in lab mice and rats.  A person would need to drink more than 2,900 cans of cola every day for 70 years to reach the lowest dose levels mice received in the single study upon which California based its decision.  And, to boot, the study showed a reduction of tumors in the lab rats tested.

Yet time and again, and even very recently, leading public health organizations have reaffirmed that caramel coloring, including the trace amounts of 4-MEI found in it, is safe for use in colas and countless other foods.   Most relevant to today’s coverage, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved caramel as a color additive and lists it as a “generally recognized as safe” food ingredient.  And just today in a Bloomberg article, a representative from FDA was quoted as saying:

“A person would have to drink more than a thousand cans of soda in a day to match the doses administered in studies that showed links to cancer in rodents, Douglas Karas, a U.S. Food and Drug Administration spokesman, said in a statement….The FDA has no reason to believe consumers are in danger, the FDA’s Karas wrote in an e-mail.”

As recently as last November, Health Canada said that 4-MEI, including that found in certain caramel colors, does “not represent a risk” to consumers.  In March 2011, following a comprehensive review of the scientific literature, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) reaffirmed the safety of 4-MEI and stated that the presence of 4-MEI in caramel coloring is not a health concern.  And the National Toxicology Program (NTP) does not even list 4-MEI as “reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen” in its Report on Carcinogens (Source: Report on Carcinogens, Twelfth Edition. http://1.usa.gov/iId3qz)

The fact of the matter is that 4-MEI forms in foods, such as caramel, during the heating, roasting and cooking process and is virtually ubiquitous – found in small amounts in foods and beverages that have been commonly consumed for decades, including some soft drinks, baked goods, coffee, breads, molasses, soy sauce, gravies and some beers.

The foremost priority of our member companies is the safety of their products; it makes no sense for the sake of our consumers or our business to put anyone’s health at risk. It’s unfortunate for a group like CSPI to claim to be operating in the interest of the public’s health when it is clear its only motivation is to scare the American people – and attempt to impugn our industry’s products.

So, seriously.  Give it up.


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