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Coca-Cola and Pepsi Change Recipe To Avoid Cancer Warning 398

Posted by Soulskill
from the not-to-avoid-cancer,-just-the-warning dept.
jones_supa writes "California has added 4-methylimidazole (a caramel coloring) to the list of carcinogenic compounds that require an explicit warning when added to foodstuffs. Incidentally, this has entailed the big two cola producers to modify their recipe to decrease the amount of the substance — just enough to avoid the warning. The change to the recipe has already been introduced in California but will be rolled out across the U.S. to streamline manufacturing. The American Beverage Association noted that there is not enough evidence to show the coloring to cause cancer in humans."
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Coca-Cola and Pepsi Change Recipe To Avoid Cancer Warning

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  • California (Score:5, Funny)

    by nman64 (912054) * on Friday March 09, 2012 @05:17PM (#39305703) Homepage

    Everybody knows that everything causes cancer in California.

    • Re:California (Score:5, Insightful)

      by A10Mechanic (1056868) on Friday March 09, 2012 @05:21PM (#39305757)
      How do we know that California doesn't cause cancer? How can we be sure? Is there a proximity? Do people in Nevada get some sort of horrible sickness?
      • by philip.paradis (2580427) on Friday March 09, 2012 @05:22PM (#39305791)

        Do people in Nevada get some sort of horrible sickness?

        Many people in Nevada seem to suffer from horrible sickness, but it seems to increase the closer you get to Las Vegas. I'm certainly not ruling out a California connection, though.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by ackthpt (218170)

          Do people in Nevada get some sort of horrible sickness?

          Many people in Nevada seem to suffer from horrible sickness, but it seems to increase the closer you get to Las Vegas. I'm certainly not ruling out a California connection, though.

          Good chance they were already affected before they arrived. The southwest was a Mecca for people suffering Consumption (Tuberculosis) back in the day. While there is some dust, perhaps from mining, anything radioactive is probably in eastern Nevada or Utah. In dry air bacteria has a short lifespan. (This is why people may go years without suffering a cold out here.)

          • by pclminion (145572)
            Bacteria don't cause colds.
            • by ackthpt (218170)

              Bacteria don't cause colds.

              Right, virii do

              zing!

              • by Pope (17780)

                What the fuck is a "virii"?

                • by cpu6502 (1960974) on Friday March 09, 2012 @06:00PM (#39306393)

                  "Virii" and "Priii" is what people like to type when they want to appear smart (using the Latin plural). The rest of us just type viruses and Priuses.

                  • On behalf of your parent post and user Pope, thanks for the definition. Google was apparently broken. :-)
                  • Re:California (Score:4, Insightful)

                    by demonlapin (527802) on Friday March 09, 2012 @07:22PM (#39307179) Homepage Journal
                    The Latin plural would be vira (according to Wikipedia; other possibilities would be viri if interpreted as a second-declension masculine noun, or virus if a fourth-declension masculine, or virua if fourth-declension neuter) or (running through the same possibilities as above) Pria, Prii (two i's only), Prius, Priua. Priii is never right.
                  • by Black Parrot (19622) on Friday March 09, 2012 @07:24PM (#39307199)

                    "Virii" and "Priii" is what people like to type when they want to appear smart (using the Latin plural). The rest of us just type viruses and Priuses.

                    Bah, the -us/-i variation is used in plain ol' English, too:

                    asparagus, asparagi
                    broccolus, broccoli
                    spaghettus, spaghetti
                    us, I

                    Whoops, that last one is backwards...

                    • by xevioso (598654) on Friday March 09, 2012 @07:49PM (#39307415)

                      I don't understand this. I can pick up a piece of asparagus.

                      However, when I buy broccoli, at no point is my broccoli a broccolus. When I remove the rubber band, slice it up to steam it, any piece I pick up is still broccoli. So what constitutes a broccolus? The little polypy things on the end? If i hold up one of those, is that a broccolus or just a small piece of broccoli?

                      I just don't understand.

                  • Re:California (Score:4, Informative)

                    by xevioso (598654) on Friday March 09, 2012 @07:39PM (#39307313)

                    You are all incorrect. The plural for virus using classical latin is "vira". To wit:

                    "The plural of virus is viruses in English -- at least at the moment. Virus is a neuter noun in Latin. That means its plural, if there were an attested ancient usage of virus in the plural, would have ended in an "-a," because neuter nouns in (ancient Greek and) Latin end in an "-a," in the plural nominative and accusative cases. The example of the plural of datum is a case in point. Since datum is a neuter singular, its plural is data.

                    Since virus is neuter, vira is a possibility for the nominative/accusative plural. It could not be viri."

                    Thus, if a Prius is a gender neutral noun in latin, the plural form would be "Pria"

            • by omnichad (1198475)

              Most, but not all. S. pyogenes, for one, depending on how you define the common cold.

              • by 6ULDV8 (226100)

                Most, but not all. S. pyogenes, for one, depending on how you define the common cold.

                Common definition.

        • by Adriax (746043)

          Half of LA drives to vegas every friday. Of course there's going to be some contamination.

      • by nman64 (912054) * on Friday March 09, 2012 @05:27PM (#39305869) Homepage

        It can be shown that 100% of cancer incidents reported in California affected patients in California. We must therefore warn you that California may cause cancer.

      • by rednip (186217)

        How do we know that California doesn't cause cancer? How can we be sure?

        Perhaps you can get funding to conduct a study where you simply travel around CA with some lab mice while several other people do the same thing in other states?

        What I don't really understand is how dismissive the 'group think' is about this. Did everyone who takes scientific evidence seriously go out drinking already? Sure there are a lot of things that have been shown to cause cancer, while some might call laughter 'the best medicine' it's certainly not a vaccination.

        • Re:California (Score:5, Insightful)

          by brainboyz (114458) on Friday March 09, 2012 @07:31PM (#39307243) Homepage

          Because CA has gotten to the point where they label anything that might conceivably cause cancer in doses 1000s of times higher than anyone would normally be exposed to. Yes, we know, everything causes cancer in high doses.

          Hell, fast food joints have Prop-65 warnings because cooking potatoes and coffee causes a trace amount of some chemical to form in certain circumstances, which causes cancer in high doses. Yes, they have reason to be dismissive and laugh because reason has left the building.

    • Re:California (Score:5, Insightful)

      by oracleguy01 (1381327) on Friday March 09, 2012 @05:21PM (#39305761)

      Except the TSA body scanners... those are very safe. Unlike the food coloring in cola that is cancer in a bottle.

    • by ackthpt (218170)

      Everybody knows that everything causes cancer in California.

      Says you.

      Surgeon Generals Warning: Backtalk may lead to cancer of the patho... epid... nucleo... well, the wossname, so watchit, bub!

      Dang!

    • Re:California (Score:5, Informative)

      by lgw (121541) on Friday March 09, 2012 @05:26PM (#39305857) Journal

      Everybody knows that everything causes cancer in California.

      True story! These labels are a total joke here - seems like every building and half the brands of cars have these stupid warning labels.

      To those who are unfamiiar with this nonsense: if you buy a car in California, there's a good chance that a new car will come with a big sticker on the driver's side window - for your safety!

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by chrissigler (1930758)

        Is this [greenlaker.com] what you're referring to?

        Maybe it's because I live in Texas where we're apparently still not sure about the whole cigarettes-cause-cancer bit... but this seems a bit ridiculous.

        Who is the target audience of warning labels like this? I would think that there are two demographics relevant to such a warning:

        1. 1. People who can/will read a block of text that long and know what a particulate is.
        2. 2. People who are too dumb to know better than to chug motor oil.

        I have a funny feeling these groups are mutuall

        • Re:California (Score:5, Interesting)

          by cpu6502 (1960974) on Friday March 09, 2012 @06:05PM (#39306461)

          I moved to California 2 weeks ago for a temp job, and yes it's a strange place. My first indication: It was pouring-down rain, with almost no visiblity, and not a single Californian on the I-15 had their headlights turned on. I was literally driving blind (cause I couldn't see the other cars). I just slowed down & hoped I didn't hit anyone.

          Back home on the east coast everybody turns on their headlights when it rains so (1) they can see where they're going and (2) other drivers can see them. I guess Californians lack that basic common sense? So maybe Californians really DO need those labels on their cars to inform them of the obvious (cars pollute). LOL

          • by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 09, 2012 @06:19PM (#39306589)

            Its California.. if the government doesn't turn on your headlights, clearly its because headlights consume power and thus are not green. Also, if safety was an issue, the government would've turned them on for you.

            Or.. they're broke and forgot to turn on the headlight management system.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by stuffeh (1108283)
            "not a single Californian on the I-15 had their headlights turned on"

            I call BS. There's an effective law which requires everyone to have their lights on whenever it rains. But the 15 *is* socal so when it rains there, no one knows knows what to do. Are you sure it wasn't just a little drizzle? If it was, then you need to get your windshield cleaned and wipers replaced.
      • by evilviper (135110)

        These labels are a total joke here - seems like every building and half the brands of cars have these stupid warning labels.

        Since the law was passed, I was amazed to find the most mundane things like PIECES OF WOOD are known to cause cancer. Of course this is because of the chemicals used to treat them.

        Does that make it a joke? I certainly don't think so... I've taken steps to limit my exposure in response, and would be change my buying habits to prefer products without that label, if it was possible to

        • Re:California (Score:4, Interesting)

          by MyLongNickName (822545) on Friday March 09, 2012 @06:03PM (#39306419) Journal

          The problem I have is when warning labels go on items where we really haven't established that is a carcinogen. I remember the alar scare of '89(?). A lot of apple growers were hurt by the publicity. Then alar got cleared but not after a lot of economic damage to the industry.

        • Re:California (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Intropy (2009018) on Friday March 09, 2012 @06:21PM (#39306605)

          There you go assuming that the labels are accurate in a practical sense. The joke is that California requires that warning on many so many chemicals with so tenuous a connection to cancer that it's basically impossible to use as an actual warning. That problem is exacerbated by the potential lawsuits when not issueing the warning, the fact that there's no exposure/penalty for warning unnecessarily, and the lack of specificity you noted. The net effect is that if you see such a notice you can rest assured that some chemical compound nearby that you may or may not actually be exposed to might possibly have some connection to cancer at some concentration that may or not actually be present... or someone just wants to cover his ass and not get sued. Not a lot of information content.

      • These labels are a total joke here - seems like every building and half the brands of cars have these stupid warning labels.

        Yeah, including canisters of pure oxygen. True story.

    • by Nutria (679911)

      My health-food eating, California-living relative got and died from cancer. Thus, I'm not sure whether to call you an insensitive clod or an insightful social commentator.

    • Re:California (Score:5, Interesting)

      by bill_mcgonigle (4333) * on Friday March 09, 2012 @05:34PM (#39306001) Homepage Journal

      Everybody knows that everything causes cancer in California.

      I suspect that the 12t of sugar in a can of Coke will do far more health damage than the 4-methylimidazole. Possibly even cancer-related.

      Oh, but California would rather you die of complications of diabetes or heart disease than cancer. No, really, that's the unavoidable conclusion.

      • by nman64 (912054) *

        ...the 12t of sugar in a can of Coke...

        It's actually a full LoC of high-fructose corn syrup, which is complimented by the caffeine to ensure a timely arrival to your death bed.

        • by retchdog (1319261)

          please provide evidence that 34mg of caffeine will harm me.

          • by nman64 (912054) *

            When you're already suffering from dangerously-high blood pressure as a result of years of Coca-Cola consumption, it won't help you.

        • Cane sugar is sucrose [greenlaker.com], which is basically a glucose molecule connected to a fructose molecule.

          High fructose corn syrup is a 54-42 mix of fructose and, you guessed it, glucose.

          They are basically the same, except that the two molecules are not connected in a gigantic sucrose molecule and the ratios are slightly different. Sucrose when metabolized becomes sucrose and fructose, so youre getting the same chemicals in the end regardless. To quote wikipedia,

          Sucrose is broken down during digestion into a mixture of 50% fructose and 50% glucose through hydrolysis by the enzyme sucrase.

          Its telling that when you look at the wikipedia article [wikipedia.org]

      • by pieisgood (841871)

        This is the case in all of the states. The leading cause of death is heart disease, most people only care about cancer and aids though (leading cause of death in the world is heart disease, more than cancer and aids combined). Yet, I never see any stickers on the back of cars shaped like a heart. Needless to say, but cancer researchers have done a much better job of marketing than those working on heart disease.

        At least all the pharma companies know where the money is at (heart medication). Too bad their re

      • Oh, but California would rather you die of complications of diabetes or heart disease than cancer. No, really, that's the unavoidable conclusion.

        I'm not sure about diabetes, but when my time comes up I'd much prefer a massive heart attack (hopefully with the majority of suffering for me and my family over in less than a day), than a slow, drawn-out battle with cancer. I've seen that a couple times, and used to work next to a cancer center. Cancer is an ugly way to go.

        Unfortunately, my family history has many more cases of cancer and Alzheimer's than heart disease, though I've still got a few decades to decide on a strategy. Eating lots more burgers

    • I always thought those signs were a form of cancer. They're sprouting up all over the place!

    • I've long wanted to make a sign that says "Welcome to California - May Cause Cancer" and put it up under the California state line sign on I-80 West.

    • It's also interesting that California, cancer-paranoid as they are, still approved medical cannabis legislation, and famously so.

      • It's an easy assumption to make. But wrong.

        Look it up. Studies show either no increased cancer risk from cannabis use, or even a slightly protective (anti-cancer) effect.

        Emphysema on the other hand...

    • Re:California (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Grizzley9 (1407005) on Friday March 09, 2012 @06:27PM (#39306655)
      Time to bring back Crystal Pepsi and Tab Clear! It's the early 90's trend all over again! Perhaps 7up can be relevant again.
    • Re:California (Score:5, Insightful)

      by hairyfeet (841228) <bassbeast1968@NOsPAM.gmail.com> on Friday March 09, 2012 @06:53PM (#39306947) Journal

      Why does the land of fruits and nuts get to dictate what's in our Cokes? and what ever happened to personal responsibility? why must we baby proof the world? hell living causes cancer, we gonna stick warnings on babies next? Oh and before anybody says its because of the rising cost of healthcare (while ignoring the average 3000% profits the drug companies are making is what's causing the incredible explosion of cost) let me retort with this modest proposal: I'll be happy to sign an iron clad wavier that says if i get cancer the ONLY thing I'll get is plain old morphine (which is cheap) and in return you remove ALL TAXES and hand me a get out of jail free card which covers pretty much any sin law, so no more taxes on cigarettes and beer, no more throwing me in jail if I want to smoke a joint, deal? watch how quick your weaselly congress critters balk at that proposal, why? because all those taxes are going to pretty much anything BUT healthcare, its just another way they can raise taxes without the masses balking. Hell mine spent the cigarette taxes on a trauma center when there wasn't a damned thing wrong with the one we had, why? "Because the state next door had a nicer one that we did", yeah like smokers are constantly rushed to trauma centers and we are all four years old, God forbid someone has something nicer than us!

      basically the whole thing stinks. no matter how much you dumb down the planet all you are gonna get is bigger dipshits. if you give ANYTHING in massive doses to mice its gonna kill them, hell even water. Maybe we should put a warning label about water too, along with a giant arrow that shows the idiots which end of the bottle the liquid comes out of, geez.

  • by Nidi62 (1525137) on Friday March 09, 2012 @05:17PM (#39305705)
    California needs to just put out a warning saying that life has been linked to incidences of cancer.
  • by VernorVinge (1420843) on Friday March 09, 2012 @05:22PM (#39305789)
    The same 1000 cans argument can be made for aspartame as a sweetner, tail pipe exhaust, and smoking crack. What if you're that one person with a a genetic predisposition to get cancer from this substance? We should be doing what the EU has done for years- make manufacturers prove substances are safe for consumption before including them as ingredients.
  • Is there any chemical California has not added to their list of carcinogenic compounds?

  • by doston (2372830) on Friday March 09, 2012 @05:29PM (#39305925)
    Now all Coke/Pepsi has to do is remove the toxic sugar http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dBnniua6-oM [youtube.com] and it'll be perfect. ;-)
  • Slurm (Score:4, Funny)

    by AioKits (1235070) on Friday March 09, 2012 @05:34PM (#39305999)
    Will Slurm be affected in any way, shape, or form? If so, and the New Slurm tastes horrible, can I hold out for a return of Slurm Classic?
  • 4-methylimidazole (Score:5, Informative)

    by JazzHarper (745403) on Friday March 09, 2012 @05:47PM (#39306209) Journal

    ...is also present in dark beers and roasted foods. It is one of many substances, like acrylamide, formed during browning. So, even if they avoid it in cola drinks, we can expect California warning labels on more foods and beverages. (California OEHHA proposed slapping a warning label on everything containing acrylamide about five years ago, but they got a lot of pushback on that one).

    • ...is also present in dark beers and roasted foods. It is one of many substances, like acrylamide, formed during browning. So, even if they avoid it in cola drinks, we can expect California warning labels on more foods and beverages.

      And since it's created by roasting, they'll stick it on the product *after* you cook it.

      "Waiter, what's this sticker on my steak?"

    • by TheSync (5291)

      Dark beers contain 3 to 424 micrograms per liter [sciencedirect.com] of 4-methylimidazole, compared to soft drinks which have been found to have 37 to 613 micrograms per liter.

  • I just got back from a trip to SF and noticed signs in the airport that said something totally vague, like "Some stuff here may cause cancer." Um, what stuff? How bad is the risk? Should I leave? Will I be exposed by breathing the air or touching surfaces? Would wearing shoes and gloves protect me? Should I be wearing Nomex, Kevlar, or a biohazard suit? Gas mask? Where else should I go? Should I assume that anywhere without those signs is 100% safe? What if I was in a cancer-causing area and some jackass to

  • by nimbius (983462) on Friday March 09, 2012 @06:41PM (#39306813) Homepage
    the American Beverage Association is a trade organization that represents the beverage industry in the United States. Its members include producers and bottlers of soft drinks, bottled water, and other non-alcoholic beverages.

    the American Beverage Association frankly has no idea at all if this chemical is hazardous, at what levels and under what conditions. they have published no known study. they have 25 lobbyists across seven firms and their purpose is to limit warning labels on their products regardless of the actual science.

    to clarify, The Center For Science in the Public Interest (we like them. theyre good guys) concluded 4-methylimidazole is added as a caramel coloring in some dark beers and soy sauces. its bad. to further cut past the knee jerk spinjob article from OP, heres the release from CSPI:
    http://www.cspinet.org/new/201102161.html [cspinet.org]
    and a quote out of the article as to what precisely theyre targeting...
    "Federal regulations distinguish among four types of caramel coloring, two of which are produced with ammonia and two without it. CSPI wants the Food and Drug Administration to prohibit the two made with ammonia. The type used in colas and other dark soft drinks is known as Caramel IV, or ammonia sulfite process caramel. Caramel III, which is produced with ammonia but not sulfites, is sometimes used in beer, soy sauce, and other foods. "
  • by Diamonddavej (851495) on Friday March 09, 2012 @09:41PM (#39308479)

    To put things in perspective, life style choices (poor diet, alcohol, smoking, overweight, lack of exercise, viruses etc.) & occupational exposures (e.g. hexavalent chromium, asbestos) cause 42% of cancers in the UK. However, the Center For Science In The Public Interest (CSPI) publication (that kicked all this off) claims 4-MeI might cause 0.008% of cancers (i.e. 8 times the Californian 1 in 100,000 action level) if everyone drank 12 fl oz of cola a day over 70 years.

    If you take this seriously, you really should become an physically fit, teetotal, non-smoking, asexual vegetarian with an ideal BMI. Doing this could be as much as 5250 times more important that giving up cola.

    Also, the predictions only work if the handful of very high dose animal experiments (that show carcinogenesis) are naively extrapolated to very low level human exposures... while assuming (without evidence) a strictly linear relationship between dose and cancer risk for 4-MeI i.e. a linear no-threshold response (LNT), ignoring other dose-risk relationships e.g. threshold (harmless) and hormesis (beneficial) responses at very low levels. Indeed, the CSPI admits that researchers are investigating if 4-MeI might reduce certain cancers by modifying hormones. Lastly, judging the toxicity of chemicals in humans from animal experiments is not straightforward, a massive dose of TCDD Dioxin kills lab rats stone dead but gives us humans a nasty case of acne (see Viktor Yushchenko). So all in all, just more evidence that people are rubbish at properly assessing risk when fear gets in the way.

    Parkin et al., 2011. 16. The fraction of cancer attributable to lifestyle and environmental factors in the UK in 2010. Br J Cancer 105(S2), S77–S81.
    Kaiser, J. 2003. HORMESIS: Sipping From a Poisoned Chalice. Science 302(5644), 376–379.

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