FDA tackles a non-issue: the case against 4-MEI in caramel coloring

Screen Shot 2013-12-20 at 2.18.22 PMLast winter Consumer Reports came out with a relatively new scare concerns about a chemical in cola drinks, and other foods with some forms of caramel coloring. The chemical in question is 4-MEI, an abbreviation for 4-Methylimidazole, produced as a byproduct of the manufacture of caramel. We have written about this pseudo-problem in the past, and like most chemophobia, this one has no basis in fact.

ACSH s Dr. Bloom commented Much of this scare comes from a 2007 study by the National Toxicology Program, where they found that very high doses of 4-MEI appeared to be carcinogenic in rodents. But the same study showed significant decreases in a number of tumor types in the same animals, including a 25-fold decrease in mammary tumors in female rats.Make sense? Didn t think so.

So why is 4-MEI in the news again? Simply because the FDA, for reasons known only to itself, is continuing to ascertain the levels of 4-MEI in various foodstuffs. This, even though it has clearly stated: FDA has no reason to believe that there is any immediate or short-term danger presented by 4-MEI at the levels expected in food from the use of caramel coloring. It further acknowledged that eliminating 4-MEI from foods would be virtually impossible.

ACSH s Dr. Ruth Kava asks Why is the FDA continuing to spend (waste, really) time and money on this non-issue?? It seems more like pandering to so-called consumer protection groups than protecting consumers from a real health risk.