4-Methylimidazole (4-MEI) in Cola Drinks

4-Methylimidazole (4-MEI) in Cola Drinks

From time to time, there have been media reports that 4-methylimidazole (4-MEI or 4-MI), a chemical contaminant arisen from the formation of some caramel colourings, is present in cola drinks available in the US market.

Caramel colours (divided into Caramel I, II, III and IV) are dark brown to black liquids or solids having an odour of burnt sugar. They can be used in different foods such as cola drinks, beers, soy sauces, etc. to give the distinctive brown colour.

Consumers may be exposed to low levels of 4-MEI through the consumption of foods and beverages containing Caramel III and IV. In addition, 4-MEI can also be formed in some foods as a by-product during roasting.

The safety of 4-MEI in food has raised concern because of its cancer-causing potential. However, based on the available information, usual consumption of cola drinks is not likely leading to adverse health effects arising from exposure to 4-MEI.

Advice to the Public

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