Test results from Taipei City Government’s health bureau concluded that cola beverages sold in Taiwan — including Coca-cola, Coca-cola Zero, and Pepsi Cola — contain 4-methylimidazole (4-MI) at 93 times the level found in cola drinks marketed in the US, Democratic Progressive Party Taipei City Councilor Kao Chia-yu (高嘉瑜) said yesterday.
She demanded that the companies change their product formulation to correspond with those produced in the US and urged the Ministry of Health and Welfare to lay down stricter standards.
Kao said 4-MI was used for coloring in beverages, but has been found in medical studies to cause cancer in animals, although there is still insufficient evidence of 4-MI as a carcinogen in humans.
Referring to a report from the city health bureau, she said results for 4-MI content in a regular-sized 355ml can of Coca-cola, Coca-cola Zero and Pepsi Cola were 156 micrograms, 170 micrograms and 373 micrograms respectively.
“California has introduced a regulation requiring companies to place a ‘May Cause Cancer’ warning on beverages containing more than 29 micrograms of 4-MI. Following implementation of this law, Coca-cola Co, PepsiCo and other cola companies in the US have announced they will reduce 4-MI in cola drinks to 4 micrograms,” Kao said.
She said this indicated that the beverage companies are capable of adjusting their product formulation, “but Coca-cola Taiwan and other cola companies in this country have done nothing,” she said.
In July, the ministry placed a limit on 4-MI at 250 micrograms per 1kilogram, for Class 4 caramel coloring used in the manufacturing of cola drinks for the amendment bill on food additives, she said, adding that even as such, toxicologist Lin Chieh-liang (林杰樑) at the time disputed the cap amount as too high.
Ministry official Chiu Hsiu-yi (邱秀儀) said the regulation for 4-MI in cola beverages is based on EU specifications and all products sold in Taiwan conform to this standard.
“As the food additive amendment is not promulgated yet, we cannot require companies to disclose their product formulation, but we will continue to speak with beverage companies on this issue,” Chiu said.
Meanwhile, Swire Coca-cola Taiwan and PepsiCo Foods Taiwan Co issued statements yesterday stating that caramel coloring is used in a wide array of consumer foods and beverages. Both firms emphasized the coloring in their products conform to Taiwan’s law and do not pose a health risk to consumers.