"The caramel colour in all of our products has been, is and always will be safe," a Coca-Cola Singapore spokesman said in a press statement yesterday.
The spokesman said its caramel manufacturers have been asked to "modify their production process to reduce the amount of 4-MEI in the caramel" and that the changes "will not affect the colour or taste of Coca-Cola".
The statement follows recent reports in the United States that Coca-Cola and Pepsi will reduce the amount of 4-methylimidazole (4-MEI) in the caramel colouring used to produce their beverages.
In doing so, they are complying with an updated requirement set by California's Proposition 65, which aims to protect state residents from "chemicals known to cause cancer, birth defects or other reproductive harm, and to inform citizens about exposures to such chemicals".
By modifying the production process, Coca-Cola and Pepsi will avoid having to put cancer- warning labels on product packages.
"Regulators throughout the world, including Singapore's Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority (AVA), have approved the use of the caramel found in our products," said the Coca-Cola Singapore spokesman. AVA confirmed yesterday that "caramel is a permitted colouring in Singapore".
As a precautionary measure, it has "taken samples of Coca- Cola, Pepsi and other products containing caramel, for testing to ensure that they comply with our requirements".
A spokesman for PepsiCo told my paper that "there is no scientific evidence that 4-MEI in foods and beverages is a threat to human health", adding that "consumers have no reason at all for any health concerns".