Caramel Color Cola Draws Bigger Concerns

written by Brooke Porch, customer service associate

Caramel color is a food coloring that may be pale yellow, amber, or dark brown in color. While caramel color can be found in many commercially produced foods and drinks, it is often synonymous with sodas, especially cola.

The potential problem with caramel color is that one of its component compounds, 4-MeI (4-methylimidazole), may be carcinogenic. While there is no federal law limiting the amount of 4-MeI, California is leading the cause with Proposition 65, which requires products with more than 29 micrograms to carry a warning label.

About 75% of all caramel color is used to make dark sodas like cola and root beer. Testing has been done on many popular sodas and the levels of 4-MEI vary dramatically, as seen in the following chart:

caramel color soda

The areas highlighted in gray indicate products that exceed California’s 29 micrograms threshold, which were sold without the warning label. Some tests of Pepsi and Diet Pepsi indicate that these products are below the threshold, while other tests indicate levels six times what California deems acceptable.

It is clear that certain soft drinks contain unacceptably high levels of caramel color, a product that may cause cancer in humans (it has certainly been shown to cause cancer in lab animals). As interesting and distressing as this may be, there is a larger issue concerning soda and our health. Indeed, even sodas like Sprite, which have no caramel color, are not a healthy choice over a darker soda.

While I myself enjoy the occassional soda, it is just about one of worst things you can put in your body. Full of easily-digestible simple sugars, soda has no fiber, protein, minerals, or vitamins. It’s zero fat content may seem intriguing, but the lack of fat tricks the stomach into thinking it’s not full, hence why many describe soda as “empty calories.”

A major problem with soda consumption is that it quickly spikes your blood sugar which results in a release of insulin and, therefore, fat deposation, increasing the chances of developing type-II diabetes.

America’s obesity epidemic is multifacited but if you compare soda consumption and obesity levels by country, the data seems correlated. In other words, Americans drink too much soda.

Limiting soda consumption, not surprisingly, is beneficial to one’s health. As I said above, a soda from time to time isn’t horrible, it’s good to indulge sometimes. But, there is a world of difference between a couple of sodas a month and a couple of sodas a day.

If you’re looking for an alternative to Coke or Pepsi, we carry a number of sodas, such as Fentiman’s, Bruce Cost, and Blue Sky Organic sodas, all crafted with minimal ingredients and processing.


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