Caramel-colored beverages among most affected by changes to California Proposition 65

By Mary Ellen Shoup contact

- Last updated on GMT

Furfuryl alcohol, a common chemical founded naturally brown-hued drinks like cola, is not compliant in any amount under the updated Proposition 65 regulations.  ©GettyImages/anna1311
Furfuryl alcohol, a common chemical founded naturally brown-hued drinks like cola, is not compliant in any amount under the updated Proposition 65 regulations. ©GettyImages/anna1311

Related tags: Sugar

Recent changes to California Proposition 65 – also called the Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act – that go into effect in August 2018 will require beverage companies to call out specific chemical names in addition to a warning symbol.

The law mandates that chemicals “known to the state of California to cause cancer or reproductive toxicity” ​must be published in Prop 65 which is updated once a year, to help California consumers make informed decisions and protect themselves from chemicals known to be harmful.

The published list is now 800 chemicals long.

The chemicals listed include 4-Methylimidazole (4-MEI) and acrylamide, which both require a chemical callout and warning symbol if they exceed Prop 65 levels. Another common beverage ingredient on the list, furfuryl alcohol, must have a warning for any amount under Prop 65.

While Prop 65 is only effective in one US state, California has the largest food and beverage industry with an output of $105bn in 2012, according to USDA data.

“While Imbibe is happy to help our clients reformulate to remove chemicals that are on the Prop 65 list, our position (along with majority of industry experts) is that Prop 65 labeling regulations are an extreme reaction to what is commonly considered safe,”​ Imbibe marketing associate, Holly McHugh, told BeverageDaily.

McHugh added that the “biggest offenders”​ the beverage formulation company sees from its customers who are trying to clean up their label are removal of artificial colors, sweeteners, and preservatives.

“Furfuryl alcohol is just a California issue,” ​she said.

Furfuryl alcohol is created naturally as a result of the process of heating sugar to create a caramel color. It can be found in trace amounts in many brown-hued colors used often in caramel, coffee, cola, root beer, and maple-flavored drinks.

“This can be especially challenging with ingredients like caramel color, which not only gives the finished beverage a brown hue, but also imparts a sweeter and rounded out flavor profile,”​ Imbibe director of flavor operations, Justin Kozlowski, said.

“Our team has developed replacements for caramel color and furfuryl alcohol, which enable customers to achieve the product attributes they want without a Prop 65 claim on your product.” 

Imbibe recently launched a “flavor library”​ that includes brown-note flavors and other alternatives to replace those that are affected by the Prop 65 list.

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