PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – Consumer Reports is raising a red flag about a possible health risk with soda.

Recent tests show some soft drinks contain a potential carcinogen and a couple had relatively high levels.

The culprit is a chemical in the coloring.

Nearly half of Americans drink soda daily at an average of two-and-a-half glasses a day.

Much of it contains caramel color and two types can contain a potentially carcinogenic byproduct.

“There is a risk in there that consumers should be informed about,” Dr. Urvashi Rangan with Consumer Reports said.

Consumer Reports recently tested more than 100 samples of soft drinks bought in New York and California, including iced tea, root beer, colas, and a non-alcoholic malt drink.

The chemical, 4-MEI, showed up at varying levels across all brands tested that contained caramel coloring.

A recent government study found that chemical caused cancer in mice.

“Some sodas were actually fairly low in their levels of 4-MEI, whereas some soft drinks were extremely high,” Dr. Rangan said.

The highest levels of 4-MEI that Consumer Reports found were in Malta Goya and in Pepsi One.

All the Coca-Cola samples were far lower.

“The limitation in this study is a very small sample size, so we can’t really draw conclusions about any one given brand,” Dr. Rangan said.

However, Consumer Reports said people should know if the caramel color they’re drinking contains a potential carcinogen.

Two types don’t, but the label simply says caramel color or artificial color, so you don’t know the type you’re getting.

“Consumers who want to avoid this hazard should avoid caramel color in sodas altogether,” Dr. Rangan said.

Check the labels on other types of foods too, including barbecue sauce, syrups, bread, and beer.

There are currently no federal limits on 4-MEI in food products.

Consumer Reports is calling on the FDA to set limits and to require more explicit labeling.

Consumer Reports told Pepsi and Goya about its findings.

Goya said it is looking into the matter.

Pepsi said its products sold in California meet that state’s regulations for 4-MEI and it is voluntarily applying those same standards to the rest of the country within the next month.


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