A Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Taipei City councilor yesterday urged Coca-Cola Taiwan to follow the example of its US parent, The Coca-Cola Co, and switch to a new, reduced 4-MI formula or post a cancer warning label on bottles and cans, saying the chemical has been found to be potentially carcinogenic in lab studies.
The Coca-Cola Co announced in March that it would lower the level of the chemical 4-MI in Coca-Cola from 132 micrograms per 12 ounce (354ml) can to 4 micrograms after California introduced a regulation requiring a cancer warning for products containing more than 29 micrograms of 4-MI.
Lab studies have suggested that the level of 4-MI, which provides the caramel color in cola drinks, can cause cancer in mice.
Coca-Cola Taiwan has not provided information on the level of the chemical contained in cola drinks or said whether it will switch to the new 4-MI formula, DPP Taipei City Councilor Kao Chia-yu (高嘉瑜) told a press conference yesterday at the Taipei City Council.
“Coca-Cola US has reduced the level of 4-MI because of health concerns, but Coca-Cola Taiwan has not taken any action to address the issue. Coca-Cola is a popular beverage that many people drink every day — the company’s attitude is unacceptable,” she said.
The International Agency for Research on Cancer under the WHO classified the chemical as Group 2B, or possibly carcinogenic to humans, last year.
Although the level of 4-MI in Coca-Cola has been reduced in the US, the company’s affiliates in other countries have not yet followed suit.
Information provided by Kao showed that Coca-Cola in China contains 56 micrograms of 4-MI, while the level of 4-MI in Coca-Cola is 135 micrograms in the UK and 267 micrograms in Brazil.
Shen Mei-li (沈美俐), deputy director of the Food and Drug Division under Taipei’s Department of Health, said the division had asked the national Department of Health in May to stipulate a safety standard for the level of 4-MI in drinks.
The department said it will include the issue as a reference when drafting future regulations.
Kao accused the company of adopting double standards and asked the department to address the problem as soon as possible.
The company yesterday said in a statement that although 4-MI posed no harm to human health, it was in the process of looking for a new caramel coloring to be used in its drinks.