Soft drink giant Pepsi has come under fire for selling drinks made using a hazardous chemical linked to cancer development. 4-methylimidazole, widely known as 4-MEI, was highlighted as one of several dangerous food additives thought to cause cancer by a United States environmental group.
The Center for Environmental Health claims that 4-MEI is used in Pepsi’s soft drink colouring. The chemical was recently classed as a carcinogen by California’s health board. It is frequently used to colour products such as soy sauce, coffee, beers, and various popular soft drinks.
California law requires that food manufacturers clearly label toxic ingredients that are used in the manufacturing process. In response to the law, Pepsi has eliminated the use of 4-MEI from its California colas. The company still uses 4-MEI in its drinks marketed to other states due to its convenience in colouring fizzy soft drinks.
Pepsi claims that it is actively working to reduce the amount of 4-MEI used to make its beverages, although the company has made no promises regarding the usage of the chemical. A company statement released in the latest Center for Environmental Health report added that the company will have ‘reduced levels’ of the chemical in its products by February of 2014.
Researchers believe that heavy consumption of 4-MEI can increase the likelihood of cancers developing in the human body. While the chemical is also contained in soy sauce and other food products, experts see cola as a greater threat due to the higher amounts consumed by the general public.
Coca-Cola, Pepsi’s top competitor in the United States, did not contain any 4-MEI, as the well-known soda company recently switched to an alternative formula. Despite being of concern to public health regulators, scientists currently believe that people would need to consume over 1,000 cans of Pepsi daily to experience side effects.