The ingredient used to give Pepsi it's caramel color has been at the center of a controversy for some time. But, the company has finally outlined plans to remove the ingredient by February 2014.
4-methylimidazole, or 4-MEI, was ruled by the state of California to be a carcinogen last year, reports the Huffington Post. As a result, it required companies that use it either "to change their products' recipes or clearly label them as containing 4-MEI."
Pepsi removed the ingredient within the state of California, but had not removed it nationwide. Rival Coca-Cola has already changed its formula for products sold throughout the country.
According to the Huffington Post, "Pepsi representative Heather Gleason said that the company "moved immediately to meet the new requirements" in California, and that Pepsi without 4-MEI is already on shelves in several states. She did not address questions regarding the reasoning behind the timeline for national changes."
Despite efforts to remove 4-MEI, both Coca-Cola and Pepsi have rebuffed claims that it poses health risks to humans.
"We strongly refute any claim that any product we sell anywhere is unsafe. The safety of our products is PepsiCo's top priority, and we abide by the regulatory guidelines everywhere we do business," Pepsi's Gleason said in an email to the Huffington Post, noting that several regulatory agencies, including the FDA, the European Food Safety Authority and Health Canada all consider 4-MEI to be safe. Coca-Cola shared a similar viewpoint: “The caramel coloring in our products is safe," he said. "Trace amounts of 4-MEI, a byproduct of the manufacturing process, can be found in the caramel coloring used in many products, including confectionery, cookies, potato chips, beer, donuts, gravy and some of our beverages. But those levels are extremely low."
Keep in touch with Jill on Twitter @jillettinger