Coca-Cola rules out changing chemical content
Posted Sunday, July 1 2012 at 15:38
Coca-Cola East and Central Africa has maintained that it will not change the formula used in making Coke after a consumer advocacy group said it contained high levels of a cancer-causing chemical.
US-based Center for Science in the Public Interest said samples of Coca-Cola tested in nine countries showed “alarming amounts” of the chemical 4-methylimidazole, or 4-MI, used as an ingredient in caramel colouring.
High levels of that chemical have been linked to cancer in animals and this prompted the beverage giant to change the manufacturing process to comply with California’s labeling requirement.
“This requirement applied to California only and not to the other markets where our products are supplied,” said Peter Njonjo, the general manager for Coca-Cola East Africa franchise at a press briefing on Friday
“We reassure our consumers and stakeholders that the caramel colour in all our products has been, is and always will be safe,” said Mr Njonjo.
California requires a warning label if a food would lead to people consuming 30 micrograms or more a day of 4 methylimidizole (4-MI) per day.
But samples from Brazil contained 267 micrograms and samples from Kenya had 177 micrograms, CSPI said. Even in the United States, samples from Washington DC had 145 micrograms while Mexico and United Arab Emirates had 147 and 155 micrograms respectively.
Coca-Cola global offices have denied there is any human health risk from 4-MI.
Coca-Cola Nairobi office said that it cannot authenticate the alleged level of 177 micrograms in the Kenyan case, but added that it was still within the threshold of international food and safety standards like the European Food & Safety Agency, which Kenya adheres to.
“While Coca-Cola cannot comment on the validity of CSPI’s analysis, their stated level is still below the approved one of 250 milligrams per kilogram of caramel (by the European Food & Safety Agency),” said Deepak Nilangekar, the Technical Director.
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is considering a petition by the watchdog group to ban the process that creates the heightened 4-MI levels, but said that there is no reason to believe there is any immediate or short-term danger to consumers.
Consumption of soft drinks in Kenya has risen steadily in the past six years.
Kenyan manufacturers produced 371 million litres last year up from 279 million litres in 2006 according to data from the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics.