Baltimore Sun

Watchdog group finds high levels of carcinogen in Pepsi drinks

A health watchdog group is releasing a study today that found high levels of a cancer-causing chemical in Pepsi drinks in 10 states, including Maryland.

The Center for Environmental Health commissioned Eurofins Analytical laboratory in Louisiana to analyze Coke and Pepsi products that were purchased from 10 states.


The group said Coca-Cola and PepsiCo had pledged to change their products' caramel coloring as a result of a California law that requires labeling of products with cancer-causing ingredients. But CEH found that the Pepsi bought in Maryland and nine other states, not including California, still contains high levels of the chemical, 4-methylimidazole.

The testing showed that Coke products have been reformulated. Earlier tests showed both Coke and Pepsi products have been reformulated in California.


A spokeswoman for PepsiCo released a statement in response to the CEH findings that said the beverage maker's caramel coloring suppliers are modifying their process to reduce the 4-MEI in the caramel.

"The work has been done in California; the rest of the U.S. will be completed by February 2014," the company's statement said. "PepsiCo suppliers are also undertaking this effort globally. There will be no change to our product formula or to the great Pepsi taste consumers know and love."

The statement also said: "The safety of our products is PepsiCo's top priority and we abide by the regulatory guidelines everywhere we do business. The FDA and other regulatory agencies around the world, including the European Food Safety Authority and Health Canada, consider our caramel coloring safe for use in foods and beverages."

CEH applauded Coca-Cola's action but called Pepsi's delay "inexplicable."

UPDATE: After PepsiCo issued its response, a spokesman for CEH said the group will test Pepsi products again in the spring.

In the recent test, CEH asked 10 supporters from across the country to send Coke and Pepsi products bought in their area, and the organization sent them to the lab. Beverages included Pepsi, Diet Pepsi, Coca-Cola, Diet Coke and other products. The tests found little or no 4-Mel chemical in nine out of 10 Coke products. Outside of California, the Pepsi drinks contained levels of the chemical that ranged from four to more than eight times higher than allowed in Californa, the group said.

Nearly half of Americans drink soda every day, according to a 2012 Gallup poll, with the average person drinking more than two glasses of soda a day.