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UK campaigners slam Coca-Cola over 'cancer causing coloring agent'

June 26, 2012 - London

British campaigners have demanded a ban on a colouring agent, which has been found in Coca-Cola over being linked to causing cancer.

A chemical in the caramel colouring, which gives the drink, its distinctive colour has been at the centre of a health alert in the United States.

Coca-Cola has recently switched to a new manufacturing process in America to bring down the level of the suspect chemical, 4-methylimidazole (4-MI), but the precaution has not yet been taken in other countries such as Britain, where its products are the nation's biggest selling soft drink with sales of 1.1 billion pounds a year.

According to research by the Center For Science In The Public Interest, that functions in a partnership with Britain's Children's Food Campaign, the amount of 4-MI found in regular Coca-Cola cans sold in Britain was 135 micrograms, some 34 times higher than the 4mcg level in the US.

"Coca-Cola seems to be treating its UK consumers with disdain. The company should respect the health of all of its customers around the world, by using caramel colouring that is free of known cancer-causing chemicals," the Daily Mail quoted Malcolm Clark, the campaign's co-ordinator at the lobby group, as saying.

"The UK Government must regulate to protect public health from companies that aggressively market sugar-laden drinks that lead to obesity, diabetes and tooth decay," he added.

Manufacturers claimed that though it is possible to provide a caramel colour that is totally free of 4-MI, it is four times more expensive.

The contaminant results from the industrial process, involving ammonia, that creates the caramel colouring, while chemical reactions between sugar and the ammonia result in the formation of 4-MI, that has been found to cause cancers in laboratory tests with mice and rats.

However, Coca-Cola strenuously denied there is any human health risk from 4-MI.

It said the decision to change the manufacturing process in the US, made public in March, was to avoid the need to apply 'scientifically unfounded' health warnings to cans and bottles.

"The 4-MI levels found in food and drink products pose no health or safety risks. Outside the state of California, no regulatory agency in the world considers the exposure of the public to 4-MI as present in caramels as an issue," a spokesman of the firm said.


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