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Pancake Syrups May Cause Cancer, Report Says

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Maple syrup doesn't just taste great — it's also less likely to give you cancer than the alternatives.

Consumer Reports released a study on March 28 that found a number of pancake syrups contained varying levels of 4-methylimidazole (4-Mel), a potential carcinogen that may cause cancer in people, according to the WHO's International Agency for Research on Cancer.

Caramel colour, some of which contains 4-Mel, is added to some syrups to give them their amber hues. The chemical is also present in soft drinks.

"We're concerned because this chemical has been shown to cause cancer in mice and is a possible human carcinogen," Dr. Urvashi Rangan, Consumer Reports' safety director, told CTV News.

The 4-Mel content in syrups isn't a major concern if it is only consumed twice a week. The study estimated the cancer risk at approximately one in 1 million, which is negligible.

However, eating syrup every day, as four per cent of U.S. children aged four to five years old are estimated to do, increases the risk substantially. The study found that putting Hungry Jack Original on your pancakes every day could increase the cancer risk to a chance of 1 in 100,000, said CTV News.

The study tested 28 syrup samples that listed caramel colour on their labels, as well as pure maple syrup.

It found that Hungry Jack Original had the highest average amount of 4-Mel (38 micrograms in a one-quarter cup), followed by Aunt Jemima Lite (33 micrograms), Aunt Jemima Original (30.1 micrograms), Mrs. Butterworth's Original (21 micrograms) and Log Cabin Original (11.5 micrograms).

By contrast, Maple Grove Farms 100% Pure Maple Syrup contained 0.7 micrograms.

This isn't the first time that Consumer Reports has taken on 4-Mel.

In January, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration began testing caramel colouring in soft drinks in response to a study that found varying levels of the chemical in 12 soda brands.

The magazine urged the FDA to set limits on how much 4-Mel a product could contain, to make manufacturers label their products when it was added, and to strip them of the "natural" moniker if it were present. California adopted a law in 2012, stating that no diet soda can contain more than 29 micrograms of 4-Mel.

Last year, PepsiCo announced its intention to phase the chemical out of its products by February 2014 after they were called out by watchdog group The Center for Environmental Health.

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