Now Pepsi faces call to ban cancer-scare colouring chemical but says it has no plans to change ingredients
PUBLISHED: 00:26, 27 June 2012 | UPDATED: 07:26, 27 June 2012
Pepsi has been criticised by child food campaigners for refusing to change its ingredients in the UK to remove a cancer-risk chemical.
The American drinks giant has altered its formulation in the US following a health alert over contamination with 4-methylimidazole (4-MI).
However, the company says it has ‘no plans’ to take the same precaution for its UK consumers and argues it is not necessary.
Pepsi has been criticised for refusing to change its ingredients in the UK. The company claims a change ‘isn’t necessary’
The stance has been condemned by the Children’s Food Campaign, which says it is wrong for the company to operate such double standards when it comes to safety.
Concerns about 4-MI emerged in the US earlier this year after health authorities in California put the substance on its official list of carcinogens.
This meant that any standard 330ml can of cola containing more than 30micrograms (mcg) of 4-MI would have to carry a health warning.
As a result, both Coca-Cola and Pepsi announced they would be changing the ingredients in all their colas in America to cut the level of 4-MI.
This week, Coca-Cola pledged to change its products around the world, including the UK, to reduce levels of the contaminant, although it has put no timescale on it.
By contrast, Pepsi says it has no plans to cut the level of 4-MI in products sold in Britain and elsewhere.
The contaminant results from the industrial process – involving ammonia – that creates the caramel colouring used to give coca its distinctive brown colour.
After the findings became public knowledge, both Coca-Cola and Pepsi announced they would be changing the ingredients in all their colas in America to cut the level of 4-MI.
A Pepsi spokesman said: ‘We take the safety of our consumers seriously and comply with all EU industry regulations. Our beverages, and the ingredients that go into them, are and always will be safe for consumption.
This includes the caramel colouring that we use in some of our products.
‘There is no scientific evidence that 4-MI in foods and beverages is a threat to human health.
‘Current regulation in the EU states that caramel colouring (4-MI) poses no health risks and there are no plans to make any changes.’
Malcolm Clark, campaign co-ordinator at the Children’s Food Campaign, said: ‘It rather looks like Pepsi has double standards when it comes to customer safety. There is one set of rules for customers in America and another set for people in the UK and elsewhere.
‘This chemical is proven to be carcinogenic and Pepsi should be trying to remove it.
‘They should simply say we are going to make a change and provide a timescale. They have been through the process of reformulating the drink in the US, so they know what is involved.’
The British Soft Drinks Association says there is no health reason to change the ingredients in any cola drink.
A spokesman said: ‘The 4-MI levels found in food and drink products pose no health or safety risks. Outside the State of California, no regulatory agency around the world considers the exposure of the public to 4-MI as present in caramels as an issue.’
The association’s spokesman and Coke said food safety watchdogs in Britain and Europe have both decided the presence of 4-MI in caramel colouring is not a health concern.