has always maintained that we can all find better beverages than soda. There are, in fact, beverages that don’t contain phosphoric acid or sodium benzoate or high fructose corn syrup or aspartame, or any of the other ingredients we find so disturbing that show up in soda ingredient lists. Caramel color is a controversial ingredient that you’ll find listed in cola ingredient lists (as well as any number of products in a variety of food and beverage categories). It’s an ingredient that should convince all of us to stay away from cola sodas all by itself.

There are four different types of caramel coloring – plain caramel, a type that reacts sugar with sulfites, a type that reacts sugars with ammonium and one that reacts sugars with both ammonium and sulfites (that’s the one used in most colas). Caramel coloring has been linked to raising blood pressure, possibly having a negative effect on the immune system and, most disturbingly, containing carcinogenic byproducts. And that’s what’s put it – and Pepsi — in the news.

Information has been released showing that currently the levels of 4-Mehtylimidazole (4-MEI) levels in Pepsi are anywhere from four to more than eight times higher than the California safety level in samples tested from ten different states. The independent testing was commissioned by the Center of Environmental Health. While the test results were actually an improvement from the levels found in Pepsi a year ago, the levels are still cause for concern.

Pepsi has responded to the Center of Environmental Health explaining that its caramel coloring suppliers have been working on the process of modifying the manufacturing process to reduce the amount of 4-MEI found in its soda. They are looking at February of 2014 as the date that the modified caramel coloring will be included in its products throughout the United States.

4-MEI is a chemical byproduct of the industrial production of caramel coloring. Last year a National Toxicology Program animal study found “clear evidence” that the chemical is a carcinogen. In response to those findings, California passed a law requiring soda manufacturers to include the cancer-causing ingredient on their labels. It was at that time that both Coke and Pepsi pledged to have their caramel coloring suppliers reformulate the ingredient they use in their sodas. The Center of Environmental Health’s recent testing found that Coca-Cola did a much better job of cleaning up their act than Pepsi.

While both have since posted improvements in the state of California, which means their levels of 4-MEI are now below California’s legal levels, CEH claims Pepsi still trails in other key markets around the U.S.

Most soda is a chemical concoction. There’s nothing nutritionally valuable about it. Some of the ingredients included in it are harsh enough to be used as cleaning agents. We’ve recently blogged about people who have only included soda in their diets for years having negative heart responses that cleared completely when they stopped drinking cola. The type of caramel coloring used in colas has now been linked fairly clearly with cancer. This particular testing information from the Center of Environmental Health is one more reason to stay away from cola. believes that it is our own nutritional awareness that will keep us safe and healthy as continue to focus on what’s really in our food and drink.

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