Researchers have found that too much soda consumption may expose the consumers to potentially cancer-causing levels of the chemical 4-methylimidazole, abbreviated as 4-MEI. Recently the researchers have analyzed the soda consumption habits of Americans and the attributes of 11 different soft drinks and have found that drinking even one can of soda daily could be damaging.
A number of popular beverages contain dark caramel color and in the process of adding that color, a carcinogen is formed as a byproduct. According to a California law, if a drink exposes the consumers to more than 29 mcg of 4-MEI every day, it carries an “excess cancer risk.” The law has made it mandatory for the companies to put a warning label on drinks which exceed this level and are sold in the state. However, such laws do not exist in other states and researchers have found that the 4-MEI levels in drinks range from 9.5 mcg per liter to 963 mcg per liter.
The study was carried out by a team of researchers from the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future in Baltimore, MD. For the study, 110 samples of soda brands were tested and it was found that concentrations of 4-MEI varied widely. It was also observed that the levels were “consistent across lots of the same beverage purchased in the same state/area.” Some of the soft drinks in California contain lower levels of 4-MEI which is due to the mentioned law.
The study revealed that 44 percent of children and 58 percent of adults drink at least one can of soda per day, which implies that almost half of the American population expose themselves to a cancer-causing carcinogen every day. Senior author of the study, Keeve Nachman stated “Soft drink consumers are being exposed to an avoidable and unnecessary cancer risk from an ingredient that is being added to these beverages simply for aesthetic purposes… This unnecessary exposure poses a threat to public health and raises questions about the continued use of caramel coloring in soda.” Presently there is no federal limit on the amount of 4-MEI in foods or drinks. Nachman explained “An FDA intervention, such as determining maximum levels for 4-MEI in beverages, could be a valuable approach to reducing excess cancer risk attributable to 4-MEI exposure in the U.S. population.”