A lawsuit has been filed against PepsiCo Inc., alleging that the food and beverage company failed to warn consumers that its diet drink, Pepsi One, contains a cancer-causing component. The Plaintiff, Kelly Ree, contends in her lawsuit that Pepsi One contains a dangerous level of 4-methylimidazole, or 4-MEI, which has been shown to cause cancer in laboratory mice. She contends that the company was required to warn consumers of the danger under California’s Proposition 65, but failed to do so. The Plaintiff says she “would not have purchased the product had she known that it contained 4-MEI well in excess of Proposition 65 guidelines.” Ms. Ree said she purchased the drink in 2012. The lawsuit seeks certification as a class-action. If a class is certified, it would include potentially thousands of consumers as Plaintiffs.

The chemical is formed during the production of certain caramel-coloring agents used in many foods and beverages. It is found in colas, beers, soy sauces, breads, coffee and other products, according to California’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment. Studies published in 2007 by the federal government’s National Toxicology Program showed that long-term exposure to 4-MEI led to increases in lung cancer in mice. As a result, 4-MEI was added to the list of carcinogens that must be disclosed under California law.

Coca-Cola Co. and PepsiCo said they were altering how they made cola beverages to reduce the amount of 4-MEI and avoid the disclosure requirement. But in February, Consumer Reports noted that its testing found that Pepsi One contained in excess of 29 micrograms of 4-MEI per serving. In her lawsuit, Ms. Ree seeks compensatory damages and an injunction requiring PepsiCo to either reduce the amount of the chemical in Pepsi One or include a warning on product labels. It will be most interesting to see how this lawsuit winds up as it goes through the system.

Source: Los Angeles Times

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