ATLANTA and PURCHASE, NY: Cola giants Coca-Cola and PepsiCo are pushing back against media reports that say they are changing the recipes for their beverages to comply with California state laws. Both companies say they are only modifying their manufacturing processes.
Diana Garza Ciarlante, VP of communications at Coca-Cola, said via email that the company wants to “set the record straight” about the steps it's taking since “there had been a fair amount of media coverage to some misconceptions about caramel and The Coca-Cola Company's beverages.”
Ciarlante said Coca-Cola is “monitoring [and] proactively communicating the facts in a number of ways.” However, the company's Facebook and Twitter accounts had no mention of the formula changes at press time.
Coca-Cola and Pepsi have issued statements to press outlets to explain that the modification is not changing the brands' formulas. A Coca-Cola spokesperson told Agence France-Press in an email, “We are NOT changing our recipe; or our formula.”On March 5, the Center for Science in the Public Interest released a study showing that both regular and Diet Coke and Pepsi contain high levels of the carcinogen known as 4-methylimidazole (4-MI), which gives the beverages their caramel coloring. Based on California state law, the amount of 4-MI in the drinks is too high to be sold without a warning label, so Coca-Cola and Pepsi altered the production process of the caramel coloring to reduce the amount of the chemical.
Various media reported that Coke and Pepsi were changing their recipes shortly thereafter.
“The caramel color in all of our products has been, is, and always will be safe, and the Coca-Cola Company is not changing the world-famous formula for our Coca-Cola beverages,” the company said in an official statement on its website.
Coca-Cola said in the statement that it asked its caramel manufacturers to “modify their production process to reduce the amount of 4-MI in the caramel,” but the changes will not affect the formula or taste of the beverages.
Gina Anderson, PepsiCo's director of media relations for North America beverages, said her company is also not altering its formula.
“When California chose to add 4-MI to its Prop 65 list, we asked our caramel suppliers to modify their manufacturing processes, which they have done,” she explained.
PepsiCo, which is in the process of trimming its PR agency roster, said in an official statement that it plans on expanding the caramel-coloring modification process throughout the rest of the US, and that consumers have no reason for any health concerns.
PepsiCo also has not posted about the manufacturing process changes on the PepsiCo or Pepsi Facebook pages, Twitter handles, or on the company website as of press time.