Pepsi One and Potential Cancer-Causing Chemical

Jan. 24, 2014 -- Pepsi One has higher levels of a potential cancer-causing chemical than other soft drinks, according to a study released Thursday by Consumer Reports magazine.

Researchers looked at levels of a chemical called 4-methylimidazole (4-MeI), which is found in artificial caramel coloring used in soft drinks. There are no federal limits on the chemical's use, but California requires warning labels on foods or beverages that expose consumers to more than 29 micrograms of 4-MeI a day, the Los Angeles Times reported.

The Consumer Reports study said that 12-ounce cans of the low-calorie soft drink Pepsi One bought in California contained as much as 43.5 micrograms of 4-MeI, and that a nonalcoholic malt beverage called Malta Goya had as much as 352.5 micrograms of the chemical, the Times reported.

In contrast, cans of Coca-Cola and Dr. Pepper contained 4.3 micrograms and 10.1 micrograms, respectively, of 4-MeI, the Times said.

A person would have to drink more than 1,000 cans of soda a day to reach the levels of 4-MeI linking the chemical and cancer in rodents, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the newspaper reported.

In 2012, both Coca-Cola Co. and PepsiCo Inc. promised to reduce the amount of 4-MeI in their drinks, the newspaper said.

"We are concerned about both the levels of 4-MeI we found in many of the soft drinks tested and the variations observed among brands, especially given the widespread consumption of these types of beverages," said Urvashi Rangan, a toxicologist and executive director of the Consumer Reports Food Safety and Sustainability Center, the Times reported.

Pepsi disputed the study findings. The soda maker said levels of 4-MeI in its drinks did not equal 29 micrograms a day because "the average amount of diet soda consumed by those who drink it is approximately 100 [milliliters] per day, or less than a third of a 12 [ounce] can," the Times reported. Goya Foods Inc. refused comment, the newspaper said.

Consumer Reports has asked the California attorney general to investigate whether Pepsi One and Malta Goya should have warning labels, the Times reported.