The Center for Science in the Public Interest has called for the FDA to ban the use of caramel coloring in food. This caramel coloring is found in many food and beverage items such as dark sodas, dessert mixes, cough drops, gravy browning, ice cream, chocolate, cookies and many more items intended for ingestion. Studies on mice and/or rats has shown this chemical to cause lung, liver and thyroid cancer and leukemia.
The marketing and labeling of products tends to be a sore spot with me personally. When you see “Caramel Coloring” what do you think? I think of caramel that is melted sugar becoming a yummy candy in my sauce pan. However, that’s not what it is in the context of mass produced food in most cases. It is indeed sugars, though not the table sugar you would use to create caramel with in your own kitchen. These “other” sugars are reacted with chemicals such as ammonia and sulfite compounds to create a concentrated color.
These chemical reactions also result in the creation of 2-methylimidazole and 4-methylimidazole. The former is corrosive and causes “burns by all exposure routes” and is harmful if ingested according to the Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS), and the latter’s MSDS says the same, with the addition that the liquid and vapor are combustible. As of January 7, 2011 4-methylimidazole is listed as known to cause cancer under California’s Proposition 65.
This carcinogenic chemical, 4-methylimidazole, is used in the manufacture of a variety of things like dyes and pigments which is why you’ll find it in food items; but it’s also used in or to aid the creation of pharmaceutical medicines, agricultural chemicals, photographic chemicals, cleaning products, and rubber. This means that exposure very possibly is higher than one would think initially. Especially if it’s not a direct ingredient to the finished product. If it’s a bi-product of the creation process anywhere along the line, it is considered a contaminant, not an ingredient and therefore need not be listed by law. Nowhere on the ingredient list of your soda will you see “2-methylimidazole or 4-methylimidazole”. It is included in the “caramel color”, which of course the general public has been unaware of.
Here’s the stats:
Under California’s Proposition 65, products (including food) are required to carry warning labels if there are levels above a set amount of an identified carcinogen. According to the CSPI, 16 micrograms per day show no significant risk. How does this play out in real, every day life? From the same source, popular brands of cola are reported to contain 200 micrograms per 20 ounce bottle. Just two ounces from that one source is more than is allowed in California without a warning label. So, considering that many people can drink easily 40+ ounces of cola a day, that’s 400+ micrograms of a known carcinogen a day. And that’s not accounting for other routes and sources of exposure.
How do I find it?
Read your labels! I cannot stress how important it is to read your labels. We’re not talking the nutrition facts here, we’re talking ingredient list. Check this out: Go to the kitchen and get a loaf of bread. Now get a cookbook or look up a bread recipe online. Compare the ingredients. Go on…this page will wait for your return.
What difference do you see? Amazing isn’t it?
With all the chemicals and highly processed goods on the market today, it really is important to educate ourselves on the details of what we are really exposed to every day. Two great places to start: the Kitchen and the Bathroom. We eat everyday, and most people, especially women, use multiple personal care products every day. Know what’s in them. Research the ingredients. Put forth the effort to know what’s good, ok, questionable and outright bad for the body.
This is especially important for children and pets. Pound for pound they ingest far more than adults do. The best way to really explain this is by using alcoholic beverages as an example. It takes much more to get a 250 pound man drunk than it does one that is 150 pounds (not counting for tolerance here). Same goes for toxins, especially those that accumulate rather than being flushed from the body relatively easily. There are higher rates of chronic dis-eases, illnesses and syndromes than ever before. New reports are coming out nearly every day about toxins doing this and that to the human body.
It’s time to really take a good look at the substances we’re exposed to daily, and it is absolutely crucial to pay attention to, and to understand ingredients in our food and beverages. Your health, quality of life and all around well-being really do depend on it.
Center for Science in the Public Interest article ~ http://www.cspinet.org/new/201102161.html
Material Safety Data Sheet ~ 2-methylimidazole https://fscimage.fishersci.com/msds/87619.htm
Material Safety Data Sheet ~4-methylimidazole https://fscimage.fishersci.com/msds/94023.htm *NOTE – this has not been updated yet to reflect that it is indeed now listed under California’s Proposition 65 as known to cause cancer.
Listed under Prop. 65 ~ http://www.oehha.ca.gov/prop65/prop65_list/Newlist.html