According to watchdog organization Center for Science in the Public Interest, Coca-Cola‘s (NYSE:KO) eponymous soft drinks sold in several countries still contain high levels of a chemical linked to cancer in animals.
The chemical — 4 methylimidizole, commonly referred to as 4-MI – forms when the ammoniated caramel coloring used in colas is industrially produced. The recent CSPI testing showed that Coke sold in Brazil contained the highest levels of 4-MI out of the nine countries tested.
In March, Coca-Cola, as well as rival PepsiCo (NYSE:PEP), began modifying the process for production of the caramel coloring in California after the state required a cancer-warning notice on soft drinks with levels of 30 micrograms or higher of 4-MI per 12 ounces.
During the last round of testing, Coke purchased in Calif. contained just 4 micrograms of 4-MI per 12 ounces, but levels were much higher elsewhere. Here’s a look at 4-MI levels per 12 ounces the CSPI found in the Coke samples studied.
- Brazil: 267 micrograms
- Kenya: 177 micrograms
- Canada: 160 micrograms
- United Arab Emirates: 155 micrograms
- Mexico: 147 micrograms of
- U.K.: 145 micrograms
- U.S. (Washington, D.C.): 144 micrograms
- Japan: 72 micrograms
- China: 56 micrograms
- U.S. (California): 4 micrograms
The CSPI considers numbers above 30 “alarming.”
“Fortunately, people in China, Japan, Kenya, and some other countries drink much less soda than we Americans do, so their exposure to this dangerous chemical is proportionately lower,” CSPI Executive Director Michael F. Jacobson said in a press release. “But now that we know it’s possible to almost totally eliminate this carcinogen from colas, there’s no excuse for Coca-Cola and other companies not to do so worldwide, and not just in California.”
Coca-Cola said it is working on a solution, Reuters reports. “We intend to expand the use of the modified caramel globally to allow us to streamline and simplify our supply chain, manufacturing, and distribution systems,” the company said in a statement.