Coca-Cola, Carcinogens & Cancer

Glass of colaThis week Coca-Cola have been facing a very tricky decision. After one of their flavourings was said to be a carcinogen (a cancer-causing substance), the vast, global company faced a serious dilemma: Include a health warning on each drink to tell people about the cancer risk or change the recipe.

Coca-Cola have not had good experiences when it comes to recipe changes. When they switched to ‘New Coke’ in 1985, their American consumers reacted extremely negatively and sales plummeted. It wasn’t until the original recipe was re-launched as Coca-Cola Classic, that sales were bolstered.  The market effect of the switch from Cocaine to caffeine in 1904 is less well documented…

The company therefore found themselves stuck between a rock and a hard place. As negative as the public’s response to a recipe change might be, splashing cancer warnings across their iconic red packaging was deemed to be the more sizeable of the two evils. Equally, the level of public liability insurance required to protect against legal battles should the beverage’s level of carcinogen cause health issues would surely be completely unfeasible.

The carcinogenic ingredient in question is the caramel colouring 4-methlimidazole (also known as 4-MEI). If this doesn’t sound healthy, that’s because it almost certainly isn’t. It might add a tooth-rotting caramel taste to Coke, but it has also been linked to instances of leukaemia in rats and cancer in mice by US scientists. Although this carcinogen is present in small quantities in many foods, once it passes a certain level, the US government state that the consumer must be warned.

The multi-billion dollar corporation are therefore altering their recipe to reduce the amount of 4-MEI in their US beverages, yet in the rest of the world they are under no obligation to warn consumers of the possible effects of the substance. Many people believe that the cancer risk from the caramel colouring is negligible and that the US legislation is unnecessary.

The European Food Safety Authority, for example, reviewed 4-MEI in March 2011 and found that it was not a health risk. The American Beverages Association (who may or may not have a vested interest) were also amongst those who claimed there was no health risk from 4-MEI. According to the US Food and Drug Administration, a human would need to consume 1000 cans of coke every single day to match the quantities that were given to the cancerous lab rodents.

As you can see from Coca-Cola’s trials and tribulations, industry regulations and standpoints are always changing. To ensure your business’s operations do not pose a threat to your clients, public liability insurance is vital. Explore ConstructaQuote today to find a flexible, comprehensive public liability insurance quote to protect you from whatever life throws your way.

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About ElWood

Hi readers, Elwood here, business guru and founder of I have created this blog to keep my readers up to date with the latest business news, information and advice.
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