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In January, 4-methylimidazole, or 4-MI, a caramel coloring in the colas, was added to the list of chemicals covered by California's Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986, also known as Proposition 65, according to a recent report by Reuters.
High levels of the chemical have been linked to cancer in animals, Reuters said.
“No person in the course of doing business shall knowingly and intentionally expose any individual to a chemical known to the state to cause cancer or reproductive toxicity without first giving a clear and reasonable warning," it quoted the California statute as saying.
Coca-Cola confirmed that it has strictly followed food safety regulations in all countries that it has a presence in, said Nguyen Khoa My, director of public relations of Coca-Cola Southeast Asia.
In Vietnam, authorities have approved the caramel usage found in Coca-Cola products, said My.
“The caramel color in all of our products has been, is, and always will be safe,” Coca-Cola stated in its global press release, which deemed the cancer-causing caramel a misconception.
The leading global beverage producer also said it is not changing the world-famous Secret Formula for the Coke beverages, which has remained unaltered over the years even as the company has constantly updated its manufacturing processes.
Meanwhile, PepsiCo Vietnam said that all of the ingredients for its beverages are imported, and meet all international and domestic safety and hygiene standards.
There has yet to be any official research confirming the substances used in PepsiCo’s drinks manufacturing are cancer-causing, the company spokesperson claimed.
“We completely trust in the safety of the ingredients that make up Pepsi beverages, and thus do not put any warning on the products’ labels,” he explained.
Changes made to avoid cancer warning
Meanwhile, Coca-Cola Co and PepsiCo Inc are making changes to the production of the coloring caramel in their products to avoid the need to label the packages with a cancer warning, according to Reuters.
Both said on Friday that they had asked their manufacturers of the caramel coloring to alter their manufacturing process to meet the requirements of the California ballot initiative aiming to limit people's exposure to toxic chemicals.
The companies will first start using the altered 4-MI caramel coloring in California, and then expand the use of the substance over time, they said.
"Consumers will notice no difference in our products and have no reason at all for any health concerns," Reuters quoted PepsiCo spokeswoman Gina Anderson as saying in a statement.
“The modification to the manufacturing process will have no effect on the formula, color or taste of Coca-Cola,” company spokesman Ben Sheidler told Reuters.