The Center for Environmental Health has filed a notice of violation under California’s Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act (Prop. 65) to inform the manufacturer and retailers of several carbonated soft drinks containing caramel coloring that it will file a citizen enforcement lawsuit against them for violating Prop. 65’s warning provision since January 7, 2012, with respect to 4-methylimidazole (4-MEI). According to the notice, “No clear and reasonable warning is provided with these products regarding the carcinogenic hazards associated with 4-MEI exposure.”

The notice also states that the lawsuit will be filed unless each “alleged violator enters into a binding written agreement to remedy the violations alleged herein by: (1) recalling products already sold; (2) reformulating such products to eliminate the 4-MEI exposure or taking appropriate measures to otherwise comply with Proposition 65; and (3) paying an appropriate civil penalty based on the factors enumerated” in California’s Health and Safety Code. On January 9, California EPA’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment adopted a no significant risk level for the chemical, which is a by-product of fermentation often found in soy sauce, roasted coffee and the caramel coloring added to colas and beer.