Does Pepsi Cause Cancer? One Lawsuit Claims PepsiCo Failed to Disclose Carcinogen

Does Pepsi Cause Cancer? One Lawsuit Claims PepsiCo Failed to Disclose Carcinogen

A woman from Orange County, California has filed a lawsuit against PepsiCo claiming that the soft drink company failed to disclose a carcinogenic ingredient in their product Pepsi One.

Pepsi's diet soda, the woman claims, contains levels of 4-methylimidazole (4-MEI) that are considered dangerous. According to the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA), 4-MEI is on the list of substances that can cause cancer. Products that contain levels of 4-MEI over the "safe harbor" threshold must list this on the warning label.

The plaintiff's lawsuit also requests that the case receive certification as a class action lawsuit so that other plaintiffs can join the suit. If class action certification is given, thousands of consumers who purchased and consumed Pepsi One could become plaintiffs.

What role does 4-MEI play in the production of Pepsi's diet soda? According to the OEHHA, the substance helps create the brown-caramel coloring that characterizes most sodas. Other products that contain some levels of 4-MEI include other sodas, beer, soy sauce, and coffee, among other things.

Why is 4-MEI on the list of known carcinogens and how long has it been there? The National Toxicology Program, a federal program, released the results of a study in 2007 indicating that certain levels of 4-MEI caused lung cancer in mice.

Although both Coca Cola and PesiCo both claimed that they were working on lowering the 4-MEI levels in their products, studies as recent as last month indicate that products like Pepsi One still contained 4-MEI levels in excess of 29 micrograms per serving.

The Orange County woman is seeking monetary damages (unspecified amount) as well as requiring Pepsi to either reduce 4-MEI levels in their products or include a warning label on the product.