A chemical process during the manufacture of the caramel coloring used in soft drinks such as colas produces a carcinogen (cancer inducing product) that could be raising the risk of cancer to above the accepted threshold, suggests an analysis.
Researchers found that one can of cola a day could be enough to expose them to potentially cancer-causing levels of the chemical known as 4-MEI (short for 4-methylimidazole). Routine consumption of certain beverages can result in 4-MEI exposures greater than 29 mcg a day - the level that triggers a new case of cancer in every 100,000 people consuming the drink.
Testing on 110 samples of soda brands carried out by researchers in the United States, found that drinks contained levels ranging from 9.5 mcg per liter (mcg/L) to 963 mcg/L. Concentrations of 4-MEI varied considerably by soda brand, the researchers concluded.
The potential carcinogen is formed during the manufacture of the familiar caramel color that is added to many widely-consumed beverages.
The data from this survey covered overall health and nutrition patterns between 2003 and 2010 for tens of thousands of US children and adults aged between 3 and 70 years.