Benzene in Soft Drinks
"Fifteen years ago," when U.S. Food and Drug Administration "scientists had found benzene, a known carcinogen, in some sodas and fruit drinks," the FDA said "'Trust us'," Terry Allen wrote March 28, 2006, in In These Times.
"The same levels in drinking water would have triggered mandatory action and public notification through newspaper, radio and TV ads. Yet the FDA neither sounded the alarm nor required the beverage industry to fix the problem," Allen wrote. "Ignoring basic chemistry, major brands left the avoidable combo in many drinks, especially those featuring fruit juice or fortified with vitamin C to lure health-conscious parents."
- 1 The Problem
- 2 Environmental Working Group: 2003 FDA Report
- 3 Testing Positive
- 4 Partial List of Soft Drinks Containing Ascorbic Acid and Potassium or Sodium Benzoate
- 5 Reports
- 6 Related SourceWatch Resources
- 7 External links
"Basically, the problem is sodium benzoate and ascorbic acid, which together form benzene. The issue revolves around the levels of benzene found in soft drinks. Benzene is a known cancer-causing chemical. The FDA knew of the problem as early as 1990, but never made the findings public. Instead, the FDA came to an agreement with the US soft drinks association that the soft drink industry would reformulate the drinks. In recent months, private tests have been done, and support claims by a former chemist for Cadbury Schweppes, who, as Beverage Daily reports, is now keen to blow the whistle on the benzene levels in soft drinks and the health risks involved. This has prompted the FDA to re-open the case they closed in 1990. An unnamed FDA chemist reports recent tests do indicate a problem with benzene levels in some soft drinks," Darlene Entenmen reported inThe Cancer Blog, February 21, 2006.
Benzene, which is "used to make glues, paints and detergents" "has been linked to leukaemia and other cancers of the blood." 
Environmental Working Group: 2003 FDA Report
"A computer investigation by Environmental Working Group (EWG) has uncovered results from a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) testing program that contradict blanket safety assurances about benzene contamination in soft drinks made by a top agency official on March 21, 2006. FDA's data show that 79 percent of diet soda samples tested over a six-year period from 1995 through 2001 were contaminated with benzene at levels above the federal limit for benzene in tap water.
"The FDA test results, buried deep within an obscure FDA food testing program called the Total Diet Study, were posted on EWG's Web site, www.ewg.org, just days after a top FDA official assured the public that there was no threat from the presence of the toxic chemical in soft drinks." 
"Between 1995 and 2001, FDA tested 24 samples of diet soda for benzene in its Total Diet Study: Nineteen (79 percent) were contaminated with benzene above the federal tap water standard of 5 parts per billion (ppb). The average benzene level was 19 ppb, nearly four times the tap water standard. The maximum detection was 55 ppb, 11 times the tap water limit. Each test result is from a composite of three individual soda purchases in three different cities that are blended together to make one sample.
"No brands or manufacturers were identified in FDA's test results.
"Test results for other drinks also revealed the presence of highly elevated benzene levels. One cola drink the FDA tested was contaminated at 138 ppb, 27 times the 5 ppb tap water limit, and a fruit drink had 95 ppb. Orange and grapefruit juice also had benzene at levels well above FDA's 5 ppb level of concern." 
Richard Wiles, EWG's senior vice president, "noted that several states have adopted tougher standards for benzene in tap water. Tap water with benzene above 5 ppb would be illegal and would not be allowed for consumption under federal law. In fact, bottled water with greater than 5 ppb benzene could not be sold. However, diet soda with as much or more benzene is perfectly legal. New Jersey allows just 1 ppb of benzene in tap water, and California has a drinking water standard that is 33 times more protective than the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) at 0.15 ppb." 
"The US Food and Drug Administration has acknowledged that a study found 19 of 24 samples from diet soft drinks contained cancer-causing benzene levels that were, on average, four times higher than the safe limit for drinking water," HealthDay News reported April 7, 2006. "Despite that, the agency said it was not concerned about the safety of soft drinks."
Partial List of Soft Drinks Containing Ascorbic Acid and Potassium or Sodium Benzoate
- Country Time Lemonade
- Crystal Light Sunrise Classic Orange
- Diet Pepsi Twist
- Diet Pepsi Vanilla
- Diet Pepsi Wild Cherry
- Diet RockStar Energy Drink
- Fanta - Orange
- Fanta - Pineapple
- Fruit20 Plus 10 Natural Apple
- Giant Fruity Punch Cooler
- Hawaiian Punch - Fruit Juicy Red
- Hawaiian Punch - Lemonade
- HiC Blast - Berry Blue
- HiC Blast - Fruit Pow
- HiC Blast - Orange Super Nova
- Koolaid Jammers - Blue Raspberry
- Koolaid Jammers - Cherry
- Koolaid Jammers - Grape
- Koolaid Jammers - Orange
- Koolaid Jammers 10 - Cherry
- Koolaid Jammers 10 - Kiwi Strawberry
- Koolaid Jammers 10 - Tropical Punch
- Lo-Carb Monster Energy
- Minute Maid – Tropical Citrus
- Monster Energy
- Mug Root Beer
- Pepsi Twist Lemon
- Pepsi Vanilla
- RockStar Energy Drink
- Sierra Mist
- Sierra Mist Free
- Sunny D
- Sunny D Baja
- Sunny D Intense Sport Cool Punch
- Sunny D Orange-Fused Strawberry
- Sunny D Smooth
- Sunny D Smooth + Calcium
- Talking Rain sparkling water - Black Raspberry
- Talking Rain sparkling water - Harvest Peach
- Talking Rain sparkling water - Orange Mango
- Talking Rain sparkling water - Pink Grapefruit
- Tampico Citrus Punch
- Tampico Grape Punch
- Tampico Tropical Punch
- Tropicana Lemonade
- Tropicana Orangeade
- Tropicana Pink Lemonade
- Tropicana Strawberry Melon
- Tropicana Twister Diet Soda (Diet Orange)
- Tropicana Twister Soda – Grape
- Tropicana Twister Soda – Orange
- Tropicana Twister Soda – Strawberry
- Sources: Commercial Alert and Environmental Working Group (EWG).
Note: EWG additions to the list are based on: "On February 24 and February 27, 2006, EWG purchased the following drinks at four major retail outlets in Washington, DC. They all contained ascorbic acid and either sodium benzoate or potassium benzoate—the ingredients that the FDA and the beverage industry have said can mix together to form benzene, a known human carcinogen. The actual levels of benzene formed in these products may be at trace levels and within legal limits for drinking water. EWG has no information indicating that benzene is actually present in any of these products at any level, however, we recommend that consumers avoid any amount of benzene in drinks intended for children." 
- "Benzene Production from Decarboxylation of Benzoic Acid in the Presence of Ascorbic Acid and a Transition-Metal Catalyst," Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry (Commercial Alert), May 1993 (Vol. 41, No. 5).
- "Toxicological Review of Benzene (Noncancer Effects)" (CAS No. 71-43-2), In Support of Summary Information on the Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS), U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, October 2002.
- "Toxicological Profile for Benzene (Draft for Public Comment), ATSDR (Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry), September 2005.
- "Consumer Factsheet on: Ground Water and Drinking Water: Benzene," EPA, last updated February 28, 2006.
Related SourceWatch Resources
- Acceptable Daily Intake
- Coca-Cola Company
- Isopropyl Alcohol in Soft Drinks
- processed food industry
- Soft drink in the Wikipedia. Scroll down to "Carcinogens in Soda."
- Ross E. Getman, "History and Origin of Benzene in Soft Drinks," Indymedia Argentina, March 1, 2006. Also see Getman's website www.schoolpouringrights.com.
Articles & Commentary
- Dr. Deryck D. Pattron, [http://www.ideamarketers.com/library/article.cfm?articleid=82367 "Health Implications Of Benzene & Recommendations For Public Health Food Safety," IdeaMarketers.com, undated. Dr. Pattron is a Public Health scientist and specialist in Management in the Ministry of Health, Trinidad.
- Michael Colgan, "A Hairy Bag of Water" (excerpt) from "Optimum Sports Nutrition", Advanced Research Press, New York, 1993 (ISBN 0962484059); posted by Supplements2000.com.
- "Food Hazard Warning: Benzene in Sparkling Drinks Health Scare," Government of Scotland, July 1, 1998: "the American Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) and the World Health Organisation (WHO) have set limits of 5 ppb in bottled water and 10 ppb in drinking water respectively."
- Ross E. Getman, "Caustic soda: the need to test for Benzene," Global Politician, September 25, 2005.
- Ross E. Getman, "Project Denver and the Soft Drink Industry's Benzene Problem," Global Justice/Indybay.org, December 1, 2005.
- Ross E. Getman, "Internal Soda Co Docs On Benzene Formation Uploaded," OpinionEditorials.com, January 9, 2006.
- Ross E. Getman, "FDA Releases Documents On Benzene Residues In Some Soft Drinks. Smoking gun documents released by FDA on soft drinks," NYC Indymedia, January 12, 2006.
- Ross E. Getman, "Making Lemonade Out of Real Lemons," OpinionEditorials.com, January 15, 2006.
- Chris Mercer, "FDA re-opens probe into benzene contamination of soft drinks," Beverage Daily, February 15, 2006.
- Chris Mercer, "UK, Germany checking soft drinks for benzene," Food Production Daily.com (Europe), February 20, 2006; also posted by Food and Drink Europe.com.
- Errol Kiong, "Cancer fears over fizzy drinks," New Zealand Herald, February 24, 2006.
- "Children's Drinks Contain Ingredients That Can Form Benzene. FDA silent despite knowledge of the problem. Agency Trusted Industry to Change Formulas in 1990, Yet Still Finds Sodas with Benzene," Environmental Working Group, February 28, 2006.
- Stephanie Stahl, "Health: Potential Soft Drink Danger," CBS 3 Philadelphia (Environmental Working Group), February 28, 2006.
- "Children's Drinks Contain Ingredients That Can Form Benzene," AScribe Newswire (PlanetSave.com), February 28, 2006.
- Stephanie Stahl, "Health: Soda Concerns Follow-Up," CBS 3 Philadelphia (Environmental Working Group), March 1, 2006.
- Chris Mercer, "UK food watchdog assessing benzene in soft drinks," Beverage Daily (Environmental Working Group), March 1, 2006.
- "Benzene Overview/Communications Strategy," TUCO/The University Caterers Association, March 1, 2006.
- "Cancer chemical found in drinks. Benzene levels of one part per billion are allowed in UK water," BBC (Environmental Working Group), March 1, 2006.
- Rajeev Syal, "Soft drinks found to have high levels of cancer chemical," Times Online (UK), March 2, 2006.
- Oliver Duff, "Cancer chemical found in soft drinks," The Independent (UK) (Environmental Working Group), March 2, 2006.
- Suzanne Havala Hobbs, "FDA takes look into soft drinks," The News & Observer (NC), March 2, 2006.
- Chris Mercer, "UK food watchdog discovers benzene in soft drinks," Nutra Ingredients-USA, March 2, 2006.
- Chris Mercer, "Authorities under pressure over benzene in soft drinks," Nutra Ingredients-USA, March 3, 2006.
- David Goldstein, "FDA finds benzene in soft drinks," Knight Ridder Newspapers, March 3, 2006.
- Ruth Kava, "Benzene Redux: This Time It's Soda," American Council on Science and Health, March 3, 2006.
- David Goldstein, "FDA again finds benzene in sodas," Knight Ridder Newspapers (Seattle Times), March 4, 2006.
- Valerie Elliott, "Tests confirm levels of benzene in soft drinks," Times Online (UK), March 4, 2006.
- Sue Mueller, "FDA found cancer chemical in soft drinks," FoodConsumer.org (Environmental Working Group), March 4, 2006.
- Chris Mercer, "The benzene trail," Food Navigator, March 6, 2006.
- "House Set to Nullify State Consumer Safety Programs Under Pressure From Corporate Food Lobby," AScribe Newswire, March 8, 2006.
- "China joins soft drinks benzene probe," Associated Press (FoodProductDaily.com), March 8, 2006.
- "Cancer-risk drinks tested," The Sunday Times (Australia), March 12, 2006.
- Ross E. Getman, "Big Soda vs. Our Kids: Better Beware of Benzene in Soda Pop," Providence Journal (RI) (Common Dreams), March 12, 2006.
- Michael Blanding, "Hard Times for Soft Drinks," AlterNet, March 13, 2006: "Soda has already been linked with weight gain and cavities; now the FDA admits that some popular soft drinks could contain a carcinogen. Will the fizz finally go flat?"
- "Danger beneath the pop-top?" Albany Times Union, March 19, 2006.
- "Coca-Cola seeks to reassure consumers on benzene," Drinks Business Review, March 20, 2006.
- Jan Baughman, "Government-Sanctioned Food Poisoning," Swans Commentary, March 27, 2006.
- David Goldstein, "Benzene Fears Prompt Call for Banning Some Soft Drinks at Schools," Knight Ridder Newspapers (truthout), March 27, 2006.
- Terry Allen, "Cancer in a Can," In These Times, March 28, 2006.
- Libby Quaid, "No Safety Concerns With Soda Benzene Tests," Associated Press (Washington Post), March 28, 2006.
- David Goldstein, "Experts urge ban on soft drinks at school. Beverage trade group says products safe, calls letter `irresponsible'," Knight Ridder Newspapers (Charlotte Observer (NC)), March 28, 2006.
- "FDA: No concern from benzene tests in soda," Associated Press (CNN), March 29, 2006.
- Jeff Stier and Jacklyn Eisenberg, "FDA Unafraid of Benzene in Soda," American Council on Science and Health, March 29, 2006.
- "Groups Want Sodas With Benzene Out Of Schools," Consumer Affairs.com, March 29, 2006.
- "Cancer chemical 'in soft drinks'," BBC, March 31, 2006.
- "UK Pulls Four Soft Drinks With Elevated Benzene Levels Off The Market," All Headline News, April 1, 2006.
- Valerie Elliott, "Soft drinks pulled from shelves over cancer fear. Watchdog demands inquiry over benzene levels in 26 popular brands," Times Online (UK), April 1, 2006.
- W. Scott Bailey, "Ralph Nader's consumer group sends Texas a soft-drink warning," San Antonio Business Journal (MSNBC), April 2, 2006.
- "FDA Data Undercut Public Safety Assurances by Top Agency Official Tests Found High Benzene Contamination of Diet Soda - 79 Percent of Samples Above Drinking Water Limit," Environmental Working Group, April 4, 2006.
- "FDA Data Undercut Public Safety Assurances by Top Agency Official; Tests Found High Benzene Contamination of Diet Soda; 79 Percent of Samples Above Drinking Water Limit," AScribe Newswire, April 4, 2006.
- Libby Quaid, "Benzene Levels in Soft Drinks Above Limit," Associated Press (Washington Post), April 5, 2006.
- "More Benzene In Soda Than OK In H20," Associated Press (CBS News), April 6, 2006.
- "Concern mounts over benzene," HealthDay News, April 7, 2006.
- David Goldstein, "Report: FDA knew about benzene in soft drinks," Knight Ridder Newspapers (KansasCity.com), April 7, 2006.
- Ross E. Getman, Letter to Editor: "Benzene in Soda: FYI on EDTA," Food Consumer, April 7, 2006.
- Ross E. Getman, "U.S. High Schools: Benzene in Soda Revisited," Global Politician, April 8, 2006.
- David Goldstein, "FDA didn’t act on soft-drink hazard. Report in 2003 tracked chemical that causes cancer," Knight Ridder Newspapers (Kansas City Star), April 8, 2006.
- Connie Bennett, "Some Soda Contains Toxic Chemical Benzene!" Common Voice, April 8, 2006.