New Pepsi Promise: Cut Cancer Chemical from Cola


Before the holiday weekend, the Center for Environmental Health warned its patriots to celebrate the 4th of July holiday with a drink other than PepsiCo (NYSE:PEP) cola, after the nonprofit group’s spring report showed that the world’s second-largest soda company’s cola products still contain 4-methylimidazole, or 4-MI, despite the chemical’s possible link to cancer.

While possible is the operative word in the above statement, Pepsi still remains under the Center for Environmental Health’s microscope because it promised back in March 2012 to make its cola 4-MI-free, and has yet to deliver.

The chemical, 4-MI, is found in the caramel coloring of both Pepsi and The Coca-Cola Company (NYSE:KO) cola, and very high levels of it have shown to be linked to cancer in animals. Following a warning, both companies promised last winter to rework their products in order to avoid a cancer warning on the soda’s packaging. But while Coke has kept its word and depleted all traces of the chemical from its products, a recent study from the CEH proves that Pepsi has yet to. Samples of both the sodas were purchased from California and 10 other states, and while the Golden State’s samples of Pepsi showed no signs of 4-MI,  the rest of the samples didn’t fare as well.

California recently added 4-MI to its list of chemicals covered by California’s Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986, and it was also the state that had the ballot initiative which would have required the sodas have a cancer warning on their packaging as well, explaining why Pepsi has been especially cautious about keeping 4-MI out of its products in the Golden State.

But now consumers are questioning why Pepsi can be so on top of things in California, but can’t promise to remove 4-MI from its products in other state before February 2014. When asked about the recent report, Pepsi explained, “We strongly refute any claim that any product we sell anywhere is unsafe. The safety of our products is PepsiCo’s top priority, and we abide by the regulatory guidelines everywhere we do business. While we meet the strict FDA guidelines, when the regulatory requirements changed in California PepsiCo moved immediately to meet the new requirements and, in order to maintain a harmonized supply chain, globally committed to rolling out the changes across the rest of the U.S. and internationally.”

Although The American Beverage Association refuted 4-MI’s harm in 2012, and the FDA is still reviewing data on the chemical, many consumers would rather be safe than sorry.

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