FDA soft on soft drinks?
The supermarket market chain, Safeway Inc., has agreed to reformulate soft drinks made with ingredients that can potentially form benzene, according to a recent settlement. The company is one of several soft drink manufacturers that have recently been sued in class action lawsuits over benzene, a known carcinogen. Coca-Cola, a former defendant, agreed to settle last month.There was a story on this last year...but why didn't any of the "mainstream" media pick up on it? Oh...that's right...too busy with Britney, Paris, et al.
Benzene can form in beverages containing benzoate salts (sodium benzoate or potassium benzoate) and either vitamin C (ascorbic acid) or erythorbic acid, a related substance, if certain minerals are present. Heat or light during shipping or storage can increase the amount of benzene formed.
Although benzene doesn't always form, scientific studies carried out last year by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Consumer Reports found that benzene was present in more than a dozen different soft drink products—and in some cases at levels far higher than the 5 parts per billion (ppb) that federal regulations allow in bottled or tap water. (There is currently no standard for benzene in soft drinks.)
Could soft drinks be causing cancer? It's a question that deserves attention following the disclosure that some soft drinks contain the cancer-causing chemical benzene.
It's news that hasn't gotten much attention.
But a science administrator at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration confirmed for me that recent government tests found benzene in soft drinks purchased off grocery store shelves. Long-term exposure to benzene is associated with higher rates of leukemia.
What makes this situation scandalous is the fact that FDA knew about the issue 14 years ago. The agency left it to industry to address the problem. - the New Observer
What you can do. Ingesting benzene at the levels the FDA found typically would not present an acute health risk. But because any exposure to a known carcinogen carries some risk, it makes sense to take precautions:
- Read ingredient labels. Beverages that combine benzoate salts (listed as sodium benzoate or potassium benzoate) with vitamin C (ascorbic acid) can set the stage for benzene formation. You may want to leave those on the shelf.
- If you do buy beverages with that combination of ingredients, store them in a cool place and out of direct light.