Skip to main content

Pepsi Breaks Promise, Soda Contains High Levels of Carcinogen

An additive found in the Pepsi One soft drink that's considered a carcinogen, is close to breaking California's Prop 65 rule, Consumer Reports finds in a study released on Thursday.


The artificial caramel color chemical called 4-methylimidazole or 4-MeI, was added to California's Prop 65 list in 2011. Prop 65 requires food and beverages that contain more than 29 micrograms of 4-MeI a day, to put a health warning label on the product. There is currently no federal limit on the coloring.

According to the Los Angeles Times, Pepsi One, along with Malta Goya come close to breaking the Prop 65 rule. "Twelve ounce cans of Pepsi One, a low-calorie soda, contained as much as 43.5 micrograms of 4-MeI in California tests. Malta Goya, a nonalcoholic malt beverage, reached 352.5 micrograms in California." The Times notes that by comparison, Coca-Cola samples in California contained 4.3 micrograms and Dr. Pepper contained 10.1.

Consumer reports tested more than 80 cans and bottles of sodas between April and September 2013 in California and New York, with 29 more samples taken in December.

Pepsi was one of the soda manufacturers in 2012 that pledged to reduce the amount of 4-MeI in its drinks because of the carcinogenic risk.

“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. “There is no reason why consumers need to be exposed to this avoidable and unnecessary risk that can stem from coloring food and beverages brown.”

Scroll to Continue

From the Organic Authority Files

Pepsi responded to the report by saying all of the levels of 4-MeI in the products did fall below the California limit.

Keep in touch with Jill on Twitter @jillettinger

Related on Organic Authority

Pepsi to Remove Caramel Color Ingredient Connected with Cancer

'All The Single, Obese, Diabetic Ladies?' Beyoncé's Pepsi Endorsment Spurs Outrage

Can We Skip the Broccoli Now? Pepsi Debuts High-Fiber 'Fat-Blocking' Soda

Image: vanherdehaage

Shop Editors' Picks

Related Stories