Pepsi Agrees to Limit on Caramel Coloring Chemical in Colas

Oakland, CA-A California court is scheduled to approve a legal agreement between the Center for Environmental Health (CEH) and Pepsico that calls for strict limits on 4-methylimidazole (4-MeI) in the company’s products. The settlement makes Pepsi the first major beverage maker to agree to a legally binding limit on the chemical, which is a by-product of the production of caramel coloring, in its colas. Coca-Cola also has asked its supplier to change its caramel coloring to limit the levels of 4-MeI.

“We applaud Pepsi for taking this step, which insures its cola products will be safe from this cancer-causing chemical,” said CEH Executive Director Michael Green. “We are pleased that the major cola makers took this problem seriously and took the steps needed to make their products without this unnecessary chemical.”

Under the settlement, finalized in Superior Court in Alameda County, Pepsi will require its ingredient suppliers to meet strict limits on the 4-MEI levels, which CEH found at high levels in 2012 in some colas made by Pepsi and other major companies. The settlement also requires Pepsi to test its cola products to ensure that the 4-MEI levels remain below the required level, and allows CEH to request further testing of Pepsi’s products.  In 2012, Pepsi and Coke announced they would eliminate the chemical from their products.

4-MeI was listed by California as a chemical known to cause cancer in 2011. See more information on California’s Prop 65 and 4-MeI, and see the legal settlement.

The Center for Environmental Health has a nearly 20-year track record of protecting children and families from harmful chemicals in our air, water, food and in dozens of every day products. CEH also works with major industries and leaders in green business to promote healthier alternatives to toxic products and practices. In 2010, the San Francisco Business Times bestowed its annual “Green Champion” award to CEH for its work to improve health and the environment in the Bay Area and beyond.

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