US group raises red flag over chemical in CokeBy DAVID MUGWE in Nairobi | Thursday, June 28 2012 at 10:38
An independent consumer advocacy group wants Coca-Cola to reduce the levels of a cancer causing chemical in its flagship brand sold in Kenya and other parts of the world.
The US-based Centre for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) says the levels of 4 methylimidizole (4-MI) in Coca-Cola were above acceptable limits in all markets except in the US state of California, where new laws have forced the firm to reduce them.
The chemical is believed to cause cancer. According to CSPI, the Coke sold in Kenya had the second highest level of 4-MI in nine countries sampled. Brazil had the highest while the UK had the lowest.
“Now that we know it’s possible to almost totally eliminate this carcinogen from colas, there’s no excuse for Coca-Cola and other companies not to do so worldwide, and not just in California,” said CSPI executive director Michael Jacobson in a statement posted on the consumer group’s website.
The Coca-Cola Company told Reuters that it had asked its caramel manufacturers to modify their production process to reduce the amount of 4-MI in caramel.
But the Coca Cola office in Nairobi said it had no plans to change the formula, saying that its products were safe.
A warning label
“All of our products are safe and comply with regulations in every country where we operate. Regulators throughout the world have approved the use of caramel in our products,” said Norah Odwesso, the Public Affairs and Communications Director for Coca-Cola Central East and West Africa Business Unit.
She said the company was not changing its formula and, therefore, would not affect the colour, taste and quality of its drinks.
The firm does not agree with the State of California’s decision to require a warning label on some food products containing trace levels of 4-MI.
“Science does not support California’s position. We will continue to rely on sound, evidence-based science to ensure that our products are safe,” said Ms Odwesso.
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is considering a petition by the watchdog group to ban the process that creates the heightened 4-MI levels, but said that there is no reason to believe there is any immediate or short-term danger to consumers.
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