Food Law News - UK - 2006

FSA News Item, 2 March 2006

CONTAMINANTS - Update on benzene in soft drinks

The Food Standards Agency is to conduct its own tests into the possible presence of benzene in soft drinks in the UK .

This follows scrutiny of data supplied to the Agency this week by the UK soft drinks industry after reports of benzene contamination in some soft drinks in the United States .

The soft drinks industry provided results for 230 drinks on sale in the UK . These indicate that the levels of benzene in soft drinks, where detectable, are low and are not a concern for public health.

About benzene

Benzene is a chemical that can cause cancer in humans. It has been detected at low levels in some soft drinks as a result of interaction between the preservative sodium benzoate and ascorbic acid (vitamin C). Sodium benzoate is added to drinks to prevent the growth of moulds.

The highest level of benzene found in the industry data was 8 micrograms per litre of soft drink. Most levels reported were much lower than this. Benzene is also present in air and on average people breathe in 220 micrograms of benzene every day.

If FSA tests did discover high levels of benzene then action would be taken to protect the consumer. Testing is expected to be completed in the next four weeks and the results published.

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