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Ingredient Used to Give Soda Caramel Color Linked to Cancer

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Several recent studies have highlighted the dangers of drinking soda regularly, including a higher risk of obesity even from drinking diet sodas. Now a consumer watchdog group is warning about the caramel color of soda, which they argue is derived from a known animal carcinogen, 4-methylimidazole.

The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) recently conducted lab tests of sodas such as Pepsi, Coca Cola, Diet Pepsi, and Diet Coke and found that all contained high levels of 4-methylimidazole. 4-methylimidazole is linked to cancer, the American Beverage Association argues that it isn't dangerous to drink soda. However, the State of California added the compound to its list of known carcinogens in 2011, which would've resulted in cans of soda in California being labeled with a "Cancer risk" warning. To avoid such an outcome, soda companies have started using a lower dose of 4-methylimidazole to color their products.

According to scientists, the link between 4-methylimidazole and human cancer is unclear–or whether the amount in sodas poses any kind of threat. The FDA also says that they don't believe consumers should worry about drinking soda, since an individual would have to drink over 1,000 cans per day to reach the levels of 4-methylimidazole linked to cancer in rodents.