Coca Cola and Pepsi will make a manufacturing process modification for the soft drinks caramel colouring to avoid a California law that would have forced them to label the drinks carcinogenic.
Coke, for one, insists it is not "changing our recipe or formula in any way."
"The Coca-Cola Company asked its caramel suppliers to make the necessary manufacturing process modification to meet the requirement of the State of California’s Prop 65," company spokesman Ben Sheidler said in a release. "As a result, no warning is required.
"While we believe that there is no public health risk that justifies any such change, we did ask our caramel suppliers to take this step so that our products would not be subject to the requirement of a scientifically unfounded warning."
And those changes "do change our product. The caramel color in all of our products has been, is and always will be safe."
An American watchdog group accuses the world's two biggest beverage makers of using unsafe levels of a chemical called 4-MEI they say has been linked to cancer in animals. The Center for Science in the Public Interest has asked the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to ban the colouring agents that contain 4-MEI.
But the FDA and the American Beverage Association (ABA) insist the drinks are safe.
"A consumer would have to consume well over a thousand cans of soda a day to reach the doses administered in the studies that have shown links to cancer in rodents," FDA spokesman Doug Karas said in a statement.
The FDA's limit for 4-MEI in caramel colouring is 250 parts per million (ppm). That caramel would then be diluted when it is put in soda. The highest levels of 4-MEI found by CSPI were about 0.4 ppm, according to Reuters calculations.
The ABA also notes that Health Canada and the European Food Safety Authority deem the chemical safe.
However, the state of California added 4-MEI to its list of carcinogens and threatened to slap a cancer warning label on Coke and Pepsi products that exceed the state's accepted level, CBS News reported.
While the beverage=makers insist their products pose no threat to human health, they said Thursday they will change the manufacturing of the caramel colour to comply with California's standards, then implement the change across the U.S., according to the report.
--with files from Reuters