Los Angeles: Soft drink companies Coca-Cola and Pepsi stated that they were adjusting the caramel coloring in their cola drinks to avoid having to place cancer warning labels on their cans and bottles.
The move came in response to a decision by health authorities in California that high levels of 4-methylimidazole (4-MEI) would cause cancer in lab animals.
Both companies use the chemical to make their caramel coloring and have ordered their suppliers to change their manufacturing process in order to exclude the potentially harmful substance.
However, the companies and the industry's umbrella organization, the American Beverage Association (ABA), denied that the traditional recipe was harmful.
"While we believe that there is no public health risk that justifies any such change, we did ask our caramel suppliers to take this step so that our products would not be subject to the requirement of a scientifically unfounded warning," Coke said in a statement.
"The science simply does not show that 4-MEI in foods or beverages is a threat to human health," said the ABA, which claimed that "a person would need to drink more than 2,900 cans of cola every day for 70 years" to replicate the results of the only test which showed a possible cancer risk from 4-MEI.