“Live For Now”: Consumer Reports Issues Warning About Possible Carcinogenic Chemical In Soft Drinks

220px-Pepsi_targeted_ad_1940s220px-Pepsi_logo.svgThere is a startling Consumer Report announcement this week that the respected organization has found a suspected cancer-causing chemical, 4-methylimidazole, or 4-MEI, in soft drinks. The presence of a human carcinogen will alarm many parents given the consumption of such drinks by children. The largest brand slammed in the report is Pepsi. It certainly makes the company’s “Live For Now” slogan a bit more menacing.

The chemical is used to add the brown color to soda and is found in other drinks like Coke. However, Coke has what is described as a “negligible cancer level” in any single can while Pepsi was much higher. Malta Goya, which is a Hispanic soft drink, is also particularly high in the chemical. California has recently required warned levels on the presence of 4-mei.

The possible market hit for Pepsi is huge. Many views Pepsi and Coke to be interchangeable and consumers may decide that Pepsi is “not 4-mei.”

We rarely let our kids drink soft drinks and, though I was once a huge consumer, I have been cutting back on my own consumption.

Pepsi responded to the study quickly by saying that the average amount of diet soda consumed by people is just 100 milliliters and thus the chemical is not a risk. That is not a particularly compelling spin since many people drink sodas in high quantities and one hundred milliliters is less than a third of a can of soda. A full can actually exceeds the California limit. As for Goya Foods, it is simply not responding which is equally chilling.

This could make for some legal challenges as a product defect, particularly when some companies have continued to use the chemical to a greater degree than others. With its main rival using less of the chemical, it is hard to argue that the reduction of the chemical would deprive Pepsi products of some essential component or ingredient. With the issuance of warnings in a major market like California, these companies are playing a dangerous game with a potential carcinogen in my view. The story also is likely to reaffirm the suspicion of many consumers that the federal government is not proactive in confronting major corporations on such risks.

Notably, this is not the first such danger associated with soft drinks. There is a growing movement to educate and discourage the consumption of the products. This is not just a movement linked to obesity but also diet sodas and the use of artificial sweeteners. This guy below may soon be viewed is a less than wholesome light if these studies continue to question the safety of that cultural American touchstone: the soda.


61 thoughts on ““Live For Now”: Consumer Reports Issues Warning About Possible Carcinogenic Chemical In Soft Drinks”

  1. Annie: “Oy now my head is spinning. In the spirit of fairness, after reading more info on Splenda, I’m rethinking my Splenda use.”

    Knowledge is power!

  2. pete, They sell Mexican Coke and Pepsi wherever there is a significant Mexican population. Where I live in Wi., there has had a big influx of Mexicans. My favorite immigrants. Hardworking, entrepreneurial, family oriented, religious, etc. And w/ that influx came Mexican food and soda. I spend winters in San Diego and so of course there’s plenty of Mexican soda there.

  3. Rafflaw,
    Straight up chocolate (powdered chocolate) with a bit of honey (or stevia, I suppose), coconut oil, and perhaps a bit of vanilla or cinnamon or chile powder with boiling water poured over it packs quite a caffeine punch and tastes yummy, too.

    That’s our homemade hot cocoa.

  4. Regarding sugar and fructose, Dr. Robert Lustig, pediatric endocrinologist at UCSF, gave an excellent presentation about how sugar affects the body. It’s quite the indictment. Sugar: The Bitter Truth.

  5. Annie,
    I’ve found that the liquid stevia tastes a bit better than the powdered.

    Even stevia, though, might have unintended body consequences. Even if it doesn’t raise insulin, could it still negatively affect other body processes in the long term? I need to research this… 🙂

  6. great, i’ve recently gotten hooked on pepsi throwback. it’s pepsi made with the old formula of cane sugar. i’ve heard of mexican cokes but i can’t find any.

    i drink that or sweet tea. can’t stand the aftertaste from aspartame.

  7. Raff, My wife was in the hospital a couple years ago awaiting knee replacement. She had a horrible no caffeine headache. Her surgeon said he would take care of that and ordered a caffeine supplement added to her IV. A Michael Jackson way to handle caffeine withdrawal. Headache was gone in a couple minutes. Not very logical for your purposes.

  8. Oy now my head is spinning. In the spirit of fairness, after reading more info on Splenda, I’m rethinking my Splenda use. I’ll retry Stevia. 🙂

  9. “Splenda, or sucralose, was previously given a rating of “safe” by the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), but has recently been placed in the “caution” category after a pending unpublished study by an independent Italian laboratory discovered the sweetener caused leukemia in mice.
    Tate & Lyle, the company that makes Splenda, responded in a statement to TakePart, saying the CSPI is basing this new rating on a study that has not been published or peer reviewed yet. The findings are also coming from a lab that has been questioned by global food safety authorities for not following the accepted standards necessary for evaluating safety.
    The CSPI rates food additives on the following scale:
    Cut Back: Not toxic, but large amounts may be unsafe or unhealthy
    Caution: may pose a risk and needs to be better tested
    Certain people should avoid
    Everyone should avoid
    The artificial sweeteners saccharin (Sweet ‘N Low), aspartame (NutraSweet and Equal) and acesulfame potassium (Sunett and Sweet One) all received an “everyone should avoid” rating.
    “Sucralose may prove to be safer than saccharin, aspartame and acesulfame potassium, but the forthcoming Italian study warrants careful scrutiny before we can be confident that the sweetener is safe for use in food,” says CSPI Executive Director Michael F. Jacobson.”

    Read more: http://spryliving.com/articles/is-splenda-still-safe/#ixzz2rMFEcOjc

  10. Oro, I’ve tried Stevia, it’s bitter to me. Some Stevia is mixed with a sugar alcohol which makes it taste better, but the sugar alcohols play havoc with my digestive system.

  11. http://nutrition.about.com/od/calories/p/splenda.htm

    “Sucralose is a popular artificial sweetener usually sold under the brand name Splenda. It’s not poisonous, it doesn’t cause cancer and it isn’t a pesticide. Sucralose does not break down in the body and it doesn’t release chlorine into your body.

    It’s manufactured from sugar, but in its finished form it’s approximately 600 times sweeter, so very little is needed. Most sucralose passes through your digestive system without being absorbed. The small amount that’s absorbed leaves the body through the urine.

    Sucralose is made by adding three chlorine atoms to each molecule of sucrose. This process makes the sugar indigestible so the body doesn’t recognize it as a carbohydrate. Since it isn’t digested like sugar, the body isn’t able to use it for energy, so no calories are consumed.

    Don’t let the chlorine scare you. Remember it’s also found (as chloride) in table salt, lettuce and mushrooms. Twenty years of science has shown sucralose to be safe for humans to consume.

    Sucralose is already found in many products such as diet sodas, yogurt and breakfast cereal. Individually-sized yellow Splenda packets are easy to spot in almost every restaurant and coffee shop to sweeten both hot and cold beverages.

    It can be sprinkled on your cereal, in your coffee or used as an ingredient in cooking and baking. Splenda is available in large packages for use in baking and cooking. It’s important to note that Splenda is a blend of sucralose and some starches that contain some calories – so Splenda has about 95 calories per cup.

    Sucralose has been used safely as an artificial sweetener for over 20 years. Canada was the first country to approve sucralose for use in foods and beverages. The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved sucralose in 1998 after reviewing 110 scientific studies. It’s approved for use by everyone including pregnant women and children.

    There are a few anecdotal reports of adverse reactions to sucralose, and some dubious websites claim it’s a cause of several illnesses including thymus damage, which could affect the immune system. That claim is based on one laboratory study where young rats fed sucralose and low-calorie diets suffered from shrinking thymus glands. But that’s a common response for rats when they are under stress due to weight loss for any reason and isn’t specific to sucralose consumption. Follow-up studies did not discover any evidence of immune system disfunction.”

  12. “I’m always on the lookout for alternative natural sweeteners,”

    Annie, try stevia. I grow my own. Some products (Truvia) are derived from stevia, others (SweetLeaf) are refined stevia.

  13. One more thought, Splenda isn’t actually “stored” in your body, as it leaves your digestive tract undigested.

  14. Correction: it should read, “the benefits in my opinion”, not the “risks”.

  15. RWL, one must weigh the risks. What is a greater risk? Obesity which produces metabolic syndrome which is high blood pressure, hyperlypidemia, diabetes, heart disease. Sugar and carbohydrates greatly contribute to this. Splenda passes through the body unmetabolized. The risks from it, in m opinion only is that it produces far less harm than the four comorbidities I mentioned above. Yes if people , especially pbese people could eat sugar and carbs in moderation, they wouldn’t need to rely on artificial sweetners, but the reality is that they cannot moderate their eating patterns. That’s why we see such an increase the various weight loss surgeries. Obesity is a bigger Well documented, known, killer. I’ve heard of the studies in which it’s shown hat drinking die soft drinks doesn’t help obese persons lose weight, that may be true if that person is also eating foods high in sugar and carbs. People who have had weight loss surgery, diabetics and those who are trying to lose weight need to be able to adhere to their diet. Realistically, it’s almost impossible for formerly obese people to keep the weight off in our society that is filled with so many tempting sugar laden treats. It’s extremely difficult for formerly obese or diabetic to not be able to have any sweets, while everyone else are enjoying around you. I guess I choose my poison based on the risks they pose as opposed to the greater risk of obesity and it’s comorbidities.

  16. Annie,

    This article states that ‘Splenda, or sucralose, is a sugar derivative. Splenda’s manufacturing process uses chlorine molecules to convert the sugar molecule into a fructo-galactose molecule. The fructo-galactose molecule does not exist in nature. Your body does not process or metabolize this molecule. Although Splenda does not have calories, your body’s lack of ability to metabolize the chemical may have associated health risks.’

    Why would want to take a chance with your body on this?

    The article also states: ‘As of 2011, there is a lack of long-term human toxicity studies on the use of Splenda. However, according to “Empty Pleasures: The Story of Artificial Sweeteners from Saccharin to Splenda,” common side effects associated with the use of Splenda include headaches and migraines, nausea, upset stomach, digestive issues and dizziness.’

    Side Effects are not label dangerous, unhealthy, or ‘known’ due to the FDA ‘being in bed’ with these companies (this is not the first time the FDA-our government-has agreed with corporations-Monsanto and thier GMOs-at the expense of the people; its’ another form of population control or eliminating surplus populations, but I don’t want to get into that):

    ‘While the FDA has not verified any of these side effects.’

    The Livestrong article also mentions another article entitled ‘Sweet Deception: Why Splenda, NutraSweet, and the FDA May Be Hazardous to Your Health,’ further depicting how our government allows US corporations to ‘poison our bodies.’

    ‘The Splenda stored in your body is not natural and considering the chemical nature of this sugar substitute, it may have adverse effects on your health.’

    You heard (and probably witness) many individuals who have smoked cigarettes, over consumed sodas and alocoholic beverages, or have eated certain ‘fast foods’ for decades without having been diagnosed with Cancer or suffered any form of bodily harm. Why take the risk just because of a few individuals haven’t suffered any harm, and/or is it due to our government constantly providing legal and financial support for these corporations to hide potentially ‘harmful studies’ to their products (it wasn’t until a few years ago that the FDA finally pulled/recalled children’s Tylenol and Motrin from the stores due to a few thousands of children were dying in America from it. However, how long has children’s Tylenol and Motrin have been doing this before it was pulled: decades of poisoning our children, but our government was stating the same ideology about that product as they are stating about GMOs and products like Splenda)?

    I wouldn’t touch Splenda………

  17. Someone above said to google it and I must confuse gargle with google because when I gargled it I had to throw up. What is a google anyway? Kind of a Yankee Google Dandy? I keep hearing this google verb. Seems like some eyeballing task.

  18. Well, the darker the chocolate the less sugar it has. 70% dark chocolate is wonderful!

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