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Pepsi also changes chemical coloring to avoid cancer warning label

Pepsi bottles line the self of a supermarket in Springfield, Ill., Tuesday, July 11, 2006. PepsiCo Inc., the No. 2 soft-drink maker, said second-quarter profit jumped 14 percent, helped by sales of non-carbonated beverages. (AP Photo/Seth Perlman)
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(CBS/AP) PepsiCo Inc. announced it is changing the way it makes the caramel coloring used in its sodas, joining Coca-Cola Co. in a bid to prevent the companies' soda bottles from carrying cancer warning labels as a result of a California law.

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The companies said the changes will be expanded nationally to streamline their manufacturing processes and have already been made for drinks sold in California.

In a recent report from the consumer watchdog Center for Science in the Public Interest , the group found Coca-Cola, Pepsi-Cola, Dr. Pepper Snapple Group Inc's Dr. Pepper and Whole Foods' 365 Cola contained unsafe levels of the coloring Ingredient, 4-methylimidazole or 4-MI. The group estimated the amount of 4-MI in the Coke and Pepsi products tested causes nearly 15,000 cancers among Americans.

Coca-Cola and PepsiCo account for almost 90 percent of the soda market, according to industry tracker Beverage Digest. A representative for Dr Pepper Snapple Group Inc. said all its caramel coloring now meet the new California standard.

The American Beverage Association, which represents the broader industry, said its member companies will continue to use caramel coloring in certain products but that adjustments were made to meet California's new standard.

"Consumers will notice no difference in our products and have no reason at all for any health concerns," the association said in a statement.

A representative for Coca-Cola, Diana Garza-Ciarlante, said the company directed its caramel suppliers to modify their manufacturing processes to reduce the levels of 4-MI, which can be formed during the cooking process and, as a result, may be found in trace amounts in many foods.

"While we believe that there is no public health risk that justifies any such change, we did ask our caramel suppliers to take this step so that our products would not be subject to the requirement of a scientifically unfounded warning," Garza-Ciarlante said in an email.

Yesterday, Coca-Cola Co. spokesperson Ben Sheidler told HealthPopby e-mail that Coke is not reformulating their classic beverage, but made the decision to meet California's Prop 65. The proposition requires the state governor to publish a list of chemicals known to cause cancer or reproductive toxicity, and would force warning labels on products containing certain levels of these chemicals.

The Center for Science in the Public Interest in February filed a petition with the Food and Drug Administration to ban the use of ammonia-sulfite caramel coloring.

A spokesman for the Food and Drug Administration said the petition is being reviewed. But he noted that a consumer would have to drink more than 1,000 cans of soda a day to reach the doses administered that have shown links to cancer in rodents.

The American Beverage Association also noted that California added the coloring to its list of carcinogens with no studies showing that it causes cancer in humans. It noted that the listing was based on a single study in lab mice and rats.