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Caramel colouring in pop to be studied by FDA

Safety analysis will help U.S. agency determine if regulatory change needed

The Associated Press     Posted: Jan 23, 2014

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration says it is conducting new studies of the safety of caramel colouring in soft drinks and other foods, even though previous research has shown no identifiable health risk.

The agency’s announcement comes in response to a study by Consumer Reports that shows varying levels of 4-methylimidazole — an impurity formed in some caramel colouring at low levels during the manufacturing process — in 12 brands of soda from five manufacturers.
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Coke, Pepsi and other soft drink makers say they have directed their caramel-colour suppliers to reduce levels of 4-methylimidazole.

The FDA says it has already studied the use of caramel as a flavor and colour additive for decades and it has no reason to believe the colouring used is unsafe. The agency said it is also reviewing new data on the safety of 4-methylimidazole but did not say what that data is.

“These efforts will inform the FDA’s safety analysis and will help the agency determine what, if any, regulatory action needs to be taken,” said FDA spokeswoman Juli Putnam.

There are no federal limits on the amount of 4-methylimidazole, which the FDA says can also form in trace amounts when coffee beans are roasted or some meats are grilled.

The Consumer Reports study urged the agency to set a maximum level of the substance when it is artificially added to foods or soda, to require labelling when it is added and to bar products from carrying the “natural” label if they contain caramel colours.

“There is no reason why consumers need to be exposed to this avoidable and unnecessary risk that can stem from colouring food and beverages brown,” said Consumer Reports’ Dr. Urvashi Rangan, a toxicologist and lead investigator on the study.

Though studies have not been conclusive about whether 4-methylimidazole is a carcinogen, California includes it on the state list of carcinogens and a state law mandates a cancer warning label on products that have a certain level of the substance. In reaction to that law, Coke, Pepsi and other soft drink makers have directed their caramel-colour suppliers to reduce the levels of 4-methylimidazole. It is not found in all caramel colourings.

Over an eight-month period, the study found that single servings of two products purchased in California, Pepsi One and the beverage Malta Goya, exceeded the 29 micrograms of 4-methylimidazole that are the threshold in California but carried no warning. Consumer Reports has asked the California attorney general’s office to investigate; a spokesman for the attorney general says the office is reviewing the request.

PepsiCo spokeswoman Aurora Gonzalez said the company is “extremely concerned” about the study and believes it is factually incorrect.

Gonzalez said the average amount of soda consumed daily by those who drink it is less than a 355-mL can, so the samples actually do not exceed the limit of 29 micrograms a day.

“All of Pepsi’s products are below the threshold set in California and all are in full compliance with the law,” she said.

The drinks tested were Sprite, Diet Coke, Coca-Cola, Coke Zero, Dr Pepper, Dr. Snap, Brisk Iced Tea, A&W Root Beer, Pepsi, Diet Pepsi, Pepsi One and Goya Malta. Consumer Reports said there was no significant level found in Sprite, and consistently low levels were found in Coke products.

source: www.cbc.ca

 

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Soda Contributes to Behavior Problems Among Young Children

By Alexandra Sifferlin    @acsifferlin    Aug. 16, 2013

Sugar-sweetened beverages are one of the major culprits in the obesity epidemic, but sodas have also been connected to behavioral problems among teens. That link apparently extends to young kids as well.

Among children 5 years old, according to the latest research, those drinking more sugar-sweetened sodas showed increased aggression, withdrawal and difficulty paying attention than those drinking fewer or none of the beverages.

It’s the first time that the effects of sugared beverages have been traced to behavior issues among children so young. But the findings mirror similar trends among adolescents; a 2011 study published in the journal Injury Prevention found that teens who drank more than five cans of soft drinks every week were significantly more likely to have carried a weapon and acted violently toward peers, family members and dates. Another study from the same authors reported that high consumption of soft drinks was associated with a range of aggressive or mood-related behaviors, from fighting, feeling sad or hopeless to even being suicidal.

In the latest study, published in the Journal of Pediatrics, parents reported that 43% of the 5-year olds participating in the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study drank at least one serving of soda every day, and 4% consumed four or more servings daily.

In order to evaluate the relationship between the sugared drinks and behavior problems, the researchers adjusted for several factors that can influence behavior, including their mothers’ depression and the children’s diets. Even after this adjustment, the scientists found a significant relationship between more soda consumption and aggressive behaviors that included destroying other people’s belongings, getting into fights and physically attacking others.


What makes soda-drinking kids so unruly? “Soft drinks are highly processed products containing carbonated water, high-fructose corn syrup, aspartame, sodium benzoate, phosphoric or citric acid, and often caffeine, any of which might affect behavior,” the authors write.

Caffeine is a likely culprit, since other studies connected the compound with changes in hormone levels that could alter the way still developing brains perceive and evaluate risk. Because caffeine can act on so many brain systems, but there is still little information on its influence on young children, the FDA is currently investigating the safety of caffeine that is added to food products consumed by kids and adolescents, like drinks, chips and even gum.

The sugar in sodas may also affect behavior, though that connection is murkier. A recent study reported that even at doses considered average for human consumption — about four cans of soda in a day — sugar has toxic effects in mice, impairing their ability to establish territories and reproduce. “There are too many unknown variables to say whether or not sugar causes aggression,” says Judy Caplan, a registered dietitian nutritionist for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. “I think more studies like this are needed to really understand what role food (sugar) plays in aggression in children. We will have to see what the future confirms.”

While the beverage industry has taken steps to limit children’s access to sugared soft drinks — providing healthier options such as water, fruit juices and skim milk in schools instead–the study highlights how prevalent soda consumption is in the U.S. — even among the very young. According to an American Beverage Association spokesperson, member companies do not promote or market the consumption of soft drinks to children in the age group examined in the study,  but so far the high consumption among  kids doesn’t seem to help them establish and maintain healthy relationships with friends and family.

Alexandra Sifferlin is a writer and producer for TIME Healthland. She is a graduate from the Northwestern University Medill School of Journalism.

source: Time