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Councilor calls on Coca-Cola Taiwan to take action on chemical

2012/07/13 22:20:07

Taipei, July 13 (CNA) A Taipei City councilor urged Coca-Cola Taiwan on Friday to reduce the amount of a potential carcinogen in the company's products in line with changes being made in the United States.

Kao Chia-yu of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) also said at a news conference that the company should indicate the amount of 4-methylimidazole, or 4-MEI, a chemical compound that occurs naturally in the caramel coloring process, on the can.

Earlier in the year, Coca-Cola in the United States asked its caramel suppliers to reduce the amount of 4-MEI in their formulas so that it wouldn't have to label its sodas with a warning that they contain a possible carcinogen to comply with California law.

The move came after 4-MEI was listed as a carcinogen in January 2012 under California's Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act, requiring products with more than 29mcg of 4-MEI per serving to carry the warning.

Kao added that the International Agency for Research on Cancer under the World Health Organization also listed 4-MEI as "possibly carcinogenic to humans" in 2011.

Since cancer has been the top killer of Taiwan's people for the last three decades, any possible carcinogens should be avoided, said Kao, urging the Cabinet-level Department of Health (DOH) to be tougheron the chemical's use in food and drinks.

Taipei health bureau's food and drug division brought up the issuewith the DOH's Food and Drug Administration earlier thisyear, said city official Shen Mei-li at the conference.

The administration said in a response May 30 that it would establish a standard for the maximum permissible level of 4-MEI.

Responding to the councilor's concern, Coca-Cola Taiwan said in a statement that the caramel coloring used in its products does not pose any health or safety risks, citing the U.S. FDA's comment on the chemical earlier in the year.

U.S. FDA spokesman Douglas Karas wrote in a March statement that "it is important to understand that a consumer would have to consume well over a thousand cans of soda a day to reach the doses administered in the studies that have shown links to cancer in rodents."

The company did say, however, that it plans to expand the use of the new process caramel over time to streamline and simplify supply chain, manufacturing and distribution systems. It said it is working to come up with a timetable for the plan, according to the statement.

(By Tyson Sun, Lee Chih, and Kendra Lin)