Canadian consumers have no reason for health concerns regarding 4-MEI. Leading public health organizations, such as Health Canada, the US FDA and the European Food Safety Authority, have reaffirmed that caramel colouring, including the trace amounts of 4-MEI found in it, is safe for use in countless foods and beverages.
In a letter to the Canadian Beverage Association in November 2011, Health Canada stated:
Health Canada’s current determination is that the low levels of 4-methylimidazole that can be found in food, including certain caramel colours, do not represent a risk to Canadians. This determination with respect to caramel colours is consistent with the conclusions of the recent review conducted by the European Food Safety Authority.
The FDA has commented on the idea of any health risks, noting that a consumer ‘would have to drink more than a thousand cans of soda in a day to match the doses administered in studies that showed links to cancer in rodents.’
The totality of the science does not support treating 4-MEI as a human health concern.
The Canadian Beverage Association is the national trade association representing the broad spectrum of brands and companies that manufacture and distribute the majority of non-alcoholic refreshment beverages consumed in Canada.
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ADDITIONAL FACTS AND BACKGROUND
- 4-MEI forms in foods, such as caramel, during the heating, roasting and cooking process and is virtually ubiquitous – found in trace amounts in foods and beverages that have been commonly consumed for decades, including breads, milk, jams, smoked fish, sausage and prepared meats, butter, and some beers and wines. Leading public health organizations have reaffirmed that caramel colouring, including the trace amounts of 4-MEI found in it, is safe for use in countless foods and beverages.
- Health Canada has approved caramel as a colour additive that is safe for use as an ingredient in many foods and beverages.
- In March 2011, following a comprehensive review of the scientific literature, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) reaffirmed that the presence of 4-MEI in caramel colouring is not a health concern.
- A National Toxicology Program (NTP) study does not even list 4-MEI as “reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen” in its Report on Carcinogens (Source: Report on Carcinogens, Twelfth Edition. http://1.usa.gov/iId3qz)
- California added 4-MEI to its list of carcinogens with no studies showing that it causes cancer in humans. California’s listing was based on a single study in lab mice and rats. A person would need to drink more than 2,900 cans of cola every day for 70 years to reach the lowest dose levels mice received in the single study upon which California based its decision. And, the study showed a reduction of tumors in the lab rats tested.