Warning: Don’t Drink 50,000 Cans of Beer a Day!

The study, on which California’s warning initiatives – and therefore, Food Babes fear-mongering blog – were based is that of the National Toxicology Program (NTP) done in 2007 on 4-methylimidazole (4-MEI), the substance formed in the manufacture of Class III and IV caramel colors that California has listed in the state’s controversial Proposition 65. What kind of limit does this study put on the beer (or cola) consumption?

According to this study, when mice were fed average daily doses of 40, 80, or 170 mg of 4-MEI per kilogram of body weight for two years, increased rates of benign lung tumors (alveolar/bronchiolar adenomas) were seen in females at all examined doses; malignant lung tumors (alveolar/bronchiolar carcinomas) were seen in males administered the highest dose; and an increased combined rate of benign and malignant tumors was seen in males at the top dose and in females at the top two doses.

For an average person weighing 75 kg (165 lb) the figures above become, respectively, 3, 6, or 12.75 grams of 4-MEI. Considering that a 12-ounce can of beer (or soda) contains between 0.11 to 0.13 mg (0.00011 to 0.00013 gram) of 4-MEI, the result of the study can be stated as

When an average male drinks 25,000 cans of beer per day for two years he will not develop any tumor! If he drinks 106,250 cans per day for two years he will be at risk of developing a malignant tumor! When an average female drinks 25,000 cans of beer per day for two years she will not develop any malignant tumor, but is at riskĀ for developing a benign tumor! If she drinks 50,000 cans per day or more for two years, she will be at risk of developing a malignant tumor!

Gov. Jerry Brown has proposed to reform Proposition 65 by “improving how the public is warned about dangerous chemicals and strengthening the scientific basis for warning levels.”

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