California regulatory agencies declared compound 4-methylimidazole, also known as 4-MI or 4-MEI — one of the ingredients that gives cola beverages their distinctive caramel coloring — “a known carcinogen.” The classification would have forced brands like Coca-Cola and Pepsi to place a cancer warning on containers or resort to colorless colas, reigniting the Crystal Pepsi and Clear Tab Debacle of the early ’90s.
However, crisis was averted when Coke announced a formula change that will maintain their cola’s coloring while reducing the levels of 4-MI. And this is despite the company’s insistence that “the body of science about 4-MEI in foods or beverages does not support the erroneous allegations that [the Center for Science in the Public Interest] would like the public to believe.”
Historians who specialize in the period ranging from 1992 – 1993 are thankful that Coke was able to resolve this without unleashing clear colas onto an unsuspecting public once again. Now, we just have to make sure grunge remains securely in its grave.