PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 13 March, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 13 March, 2012, 12:00am


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A food safety group asked the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) last week to ban caramel colouring agents used in several popular soft drinks which have been found to contain high levels of a chemical linked to cancer in animals.

The US Centre for Science in the Public Interest said it had found unsafe levels of the chemical, known as 4-methylimidazole or 4-MI, in cans of Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Dr Pepper, and Whole Foods' 365 Cola.

The FDA is reviewing the petition, but said the beverages pose no health risk. You would have to drink well over 1,000 cans of soda a day to reach the doses administered in the studies that have shown links to cancer in rodents, an FDA spokesman said.

But shouldn't this food safety group focus instead on trying to reduce the consumption of soft drinks? After all, there's nothing safer than avoiding these high-sugar, empty calorie-filled drinks altogether.

Not only are soft drinks bad for the waistline, the more you consume, the higher your chance of having asthma and/or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), according to a study published last month in the journal Respirology.

University of Adelaide researchers interviewed 16,907 participants aged 16 years and older in South Australia between March 2008 and June 2010.

They asked about the consumption of soft drinks, including cola, lemonade, flavoured mineral water and sports drinks. They found that those who drank more than 500ml of soft drinks per day were 1.26 times more likely to have asthma and 1.79 times more likely to have COPD than those who did not consume them.

Test yourself on your knowledge of the aforementioned drinks.

1. How long does a 70kg man have to walk for to burn off a can of cola?

a. 14 minutes

b. 26 minutes

c. 38 minutes

2. Approximately how many teaspoons of sugar does a can of Pepsi contain?

a. 5

b. 10

c. 15

3. According to the Centre for Health Protection, a 2008 study involving more than 9,000 Primary Four and Five pupils in Hong Kong found that the percentage of students who consumed drinks with added sugar at least once a day in the week before the survey was

a. 24 per cent

b. 37 per cent

c. 51 per cent

4. In a recent study published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine, participants who drank diet soft drinks daily were how much more likely to have suffered a vascular event than those who drank none?

a. 43 per cent

b. 52 per cent

c. 64 per cent

Answers: 1. c (about 139 calories per 330ml can); 2. b (about 39g of sugar per 330ml can); 3. c; 4. a