WOW.  Did you see the news this past week?  The artificial caramel color used in sodas has been shown to cause cancer in laboratory animals.  Just like saccharin, huh?  (That’s the pink “sugar” packet which is so readily available at every restaurant table, my friends. I still say the stuff should be banned entirely.)

Okay, you know I was all over this.  Here’s the deal:  In this process, sugar is purposely knocked up with ammonia as it caramelizes.  Then it is used in sodas to give them the dark brown color.  And somehow in the processes it forms two god-awful spelling-bee-finals-level chemicals which are known to cause lung, liver and thyroid cancer. 

Let me break this down a little more for us:   AMMONIA, a “caustic and hazardous” substance (as cited by Wikipedia), is heated with sugar and placed in our BEVERAGES for the sole purpose of MAKING THEM PRETTY.  And this is okay whyyyyyyyyy?  Because the FDA says the typical ingestion of this chemical is not quantity enough to warrant concern in humans. 


(Side note: It’s AH-MOAN-E-AH only if you’re north of the Mason-Dixon Line, which I am not…)

And sadly, you will also find caramel color in “natural” soft drinks too.  Why?  Because ammonia is merely a chemical compound of hydrogen and nitrogen, typically produced by decaying stuff, and therefore “natural.”  Also very potent.  Too much ammonia in my fish tank kills fish – I mean plague-level wipeout!  Ammonia in Windex gives me a headache.  And now I find I’ve been drinking it. Ugh.

True enough, I drink sodas about twice a month.  My kids love Cherry Coke and Root Beer, so they order soft drinks every time we eat outside the house.  Before all this change in our lives my family would consume a case of soda per week at home.    Last year we dropped the sodas in hopes of dropping a few pounds, and just had not brought them back into the house until recently when the kids realized Cherry Coke is not limited to the movie theater. 

But what about people who drink 6-12 sodas a day?  I know people who do, so don’t look at me like I’ve lost my mind.  Isn’t the potential health risk to those people significant enough to warrant a change in what we allow in our foods and beverages?  Shouldn’t our regulatory bodies actually DO some regulating here?   Because, no, people aren’t going to stop drinking Coke and Pepsi.  (Well, I will, but that’s just how I roll lately.)  Once the “news” came out about the dangers of cigarettes, how many people put them down and never picked them up again on that basis alone?  Right – not nearly enough!  At least there is now an age limit on cigarettes – not quite the deterrent we need to eradicate the production of cigarettes, but it was at the very least, a shallow something.  How many people do you think are going to limit their soft drink consumption in the wake of last week’s news?  And I KNOW we’re not going to put an age limit on Coke and Pepsi. 

Let’s face it. Carcinogens are in our foods at almost every turn.  Unless you are eating whole foods, unprocessed and predominantly raw, from an organic farm or garden, you are consuming cancer-causing substances.  And we are wearing them in our makeup and lotions too.  The bigger problem is that most people in America are not eating whole foods OR reading ingredient lists on food and products.  And, like me, too many people don’t know what other innocent sounding ingredients are made with toxic substances and can do us harm in the long run. 

The Huffington Post and DScriber both wrote informative articles on the caramel color news.  Everyone will decide on his or her own whether to continue drinking sodas, just like they decide whether to reach for the pink sweetener packet.  As consumers, we can affect change if we are willing to do so – together.  There’s a lot of stuff wrong with our food and it just shouldn’t be that way.  I maintain that it doesn’t have to be that way.