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Benzene Found in 5 Soft Drinks - FDA Tested 100 Sodas - Exceeds EPA Levels of Cancer Causing Ingredients - List of Beverages

May 19th 2006

Benzene Found in 5 Soft Drinks - FDA Tested 100 Sodas - Exceeds EPA Levels of Cancer Causing Ingredients - List of Beverages


The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) found benzene, a known carcinogen for humans, in several soft drinks.  The FDA says the levels are higher than 5 parts per billion, which is the limit the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) allows for drinking water. 

The FDA said that “although one sample from a production lot may contain elevated benzene levels, it does not mean that all the products from that lot will have elevated levels, or that all lots of a given product will contain elevated levels."

The companies involved have been notified and have reformulated their drinks or plan to comply with EPA standards. According to Forbes reporter, Andrew Bridges, benzene is linked to leukemia and can form in soft drinks containing two ingredients: Vitamin C, also called ascorbic acid, and either of the two preservatives: sodium benzoate and potassium benzoate.


According to Bridges, the FDA analysis of store-bought drinks found benzene levels as high as 79 parts per billion in one lot of Safeway Select Diet Orange.  There were four other drinks that had high levels of benzene.  Here is the list of drinks provided by an ABC News report:

Safeway Select Diet Orange — one lot had 79.2 parts per billion

AquaCal Strawberry Flavored Water Beverage — one lot had 23.4 parts per billion

Crystal Light Sunrise Classic Orange — one lot had 87.9 parts per billion

Giant Light Cranberry Juice Cocktail — one lot had 10.7 parts per billion

Crush Pineapple — one lot had 9.2 parts per billion


The FDA says that trace amounts of benzene do not post health risks.  Michelle Gillen, a CBS News reporter, says the FDA has long maintained that there is no health risk to the public in the traces found, but it now seems the government is retreating from that position.  Richard Wiles of the Environmental Working Group said “The FDA has published papers that show that if drinks are stored for a week in a cabinet in a kitchen, they can develop benzene levels that would be 50 times higher than would be allowed in drinking water.”

Chicago CBS News affiliate reporter Mary Ann Childers says the beverage industry claims you can't compare the water standard to soft drinks.  "That water standard is created and built on the presumption that someone is going to drink two liters of water for 70 years," said the American Beverage Association's Kevin Keane.

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Dan Wilson
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