Coke changes 'cancer-risk' recipe in US -- but not Europe
Coca-Cola and Pepsi have been forced to change their secret formulas in the United States to avoid having to display a warning that they contain cancer-causing chemicals.
The state of California has ruled that one of its flavourings is a carcinogen and ordered that cans and bottles must be clearly labelled with a cancer warning.
Both companies have responded by changing their US recipes, but Coca-Cola said last night it will continue to sell the old form of the drink in Europe, with no labelling.
To comply with the new law, which was passed following a campaign by consumer rights groups, the two cola firms are switching the type of caramel they use to give the drinks their distinctive brown colour.
Although the change was necessary only in California, both companies will alter their recipes nationally in the US to avoid complicating the manufacturing process.
The Coke formula will remain the same in Europe, as the drink complies fully with EU safety laws. PepsiCo did not comment on whether it would keep its current recipe outside America.
The companies deny that the additive is cancer forming. Tests have shown that the chemical 4-methylimidazole can lead to increased tumours in animals, but no reports have been linked to humans.
A spokesman for Coca-Cola said: "The company has made the decision to ask its caramel suppliers to make the necessary manufacturing process modification, to meet the specific Californian legislation. Those modifications will not change our product.
"Caramel is a perfectly safe ingredient and this has been recognised by all European food safety authorities."
Doug Karas, a spokesman for the US Federal Drug Agency, said: '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."
But the two companies -- which, combined, make up 90pc of the soft-drink market in the US -- insist that the ingredient is not a health risk.
Coca-Cola said yesterday the cancer warning is: "scientifically unfounded", while also maintaining that the company has been able to make the changes through a "manufacturing process modification" rather than a full change of formula.
"The caramel colour in all of our products has been, is and always will be safe," a spokesperson said.
"The European Food Safety Authority reaffirmed the safety of caramel colouring as recently as March 2011 and stated that the presence of 4-MEI in caramel colouring is not a health concern."
The recipe for Coca-Cola recipe and its "Merchandise 7X" combination of flavourings is a closely guarded secret, said to be privy to just two executives who are not allowed to fly in the same plane in case the secret goes down with them.
Last year an American radio presenter tracked down a 1979 article in an Atlanta newspaper which revealed nutmeg, Neroli and even coriander were ingredients.
In reality, the original recipe created in 1886 has been changed a number of times.
But the most controversial change came in 1985, when the company introduced New Coke. The product bombed, staying on the shelves for just three months before the original was reinstated. (© Daily Telegraph, London)