The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has reported that it found a high level of cancer-causing benzene in five of the 100 soft drinks and beverages that it tested. The levels of benzene were more than the recommended 5 parts per billion limit for drinking water.

The FDA said that it had alerted the companies that make the soft drinks in which benzene was over the prescribed limit. All companies had agreed to reformulate their drinks or have already done so, the FDA revealed on Friday. It maintained that there was no cause for concern although some environmental groups have expressed dismay at these findings.

The five soft drinks/beverages, which had excess levels of benzene, were * Safeway Select Diet Orange - one lot was found to have 79.2 parts per billion of benzene * AquaCal Strawberry Flavored Water Beverage - one lot was found to have 23.4 parts per billion * Crystal Light Sunrise Classic Orange - one lot was found to have 87.9 parts per billion * Giant Light Cranberry Juice Cocktail - one lot was found to have 10.7 parts per billion * Crush Pineapple - one lot was found to have 9.2 parts per billion

Benzene in soft drinks has become a very sensitive matter these days. The chemical id formed as a result of a reaction between Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) and either sodium benzoate or potassium benzoate, which are contained in soft drinks and beverages. However the reaction does not occur as a rule, but takes place as an exception when the conditions are ideal for the reaction to take place.

Benzene is a chemical, which is linked to cancer in humans. It is released into the air from automobile emissions, burning coal and oil. Benzene is also used extensively in industries, which produce chemicals, dyes, detergents, synthetic fibers, solvents, rubber and some plastics.

Workers in chemical industry, gas stations, gasoline distribution jobs, rubber industry, printing industry and leather industry are also at a high risk since they are chronically exposed to benzene.

As such the FDA does not have a upper limit for benzene in soft drinks. Rather it follows the five parts per billion (ppb) limit set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for drinking water. The FDA's website says that benzene can cause harm at "very low levels." It adds that exposure to light can trigger the formation of benzene in the soft drinks.

The Environmental Working Group, a nonprofit organization reacted to these findings by the FDA by saying that it is time the agency recognized the problem of high levels of cancer-causing benzene in soft drinks. "FDA's test results confirm that there is a serious problem with benzene in soda and juices," said Richard Wiles, senior vice president at Environmental Working Group.

"There is no excuse for deliberately putting chemicals that form high levels of potent cancer-causing benzene in popular drinks," Wiles added. "This is a wake-up call for the beverage industry. It is time to get benzene-forming ingredients out of sodas and juices."

The issue of benzene in soft drinks came to the attention of the FDA in the 1990s. Since then the FDA conducted a food testing program called the Total Diet Study between 1995 to 2000 according to the EWG. It tested 24 samples of diet soda for benzene in the study. Around 79 percent (nineteen) of the soft drinks were found to have benzene above the permitted levels.

Earlier this year, officials in Britain pulled some soft drinks and juices that contained benzene from the shelves. Mr Wiles feels that the FDA should do the same, "FDA should do what British food safety officials did: Disclose the test results that taxpayers have paid for. Tell consumers which products contain high levels of benzene," he said. "Tell consumers the circumstances under which benzene is more likely to be formed - such as prolonged storage under warm conditions."

Mr Wiles feels that telling the public would automatically force manufacturers to reformulate the products, "Once people have this information, we are convinced that food and drink manufacturers will simply reformulate their products, as many already have done, and as FDA originally intended in 1990."

There is no dispute on the cancer-causing potential of benzene "Benzene is carcinogenic to humans and no safe level of exposure can be recommended," the World Health Organization has maintained. Benzene causes leukemia and can also cross the placenta affecting the fetus.

Study: Soft Drink Ingredient Sodium Benzoate May Lead to Cirrhosis, Parkinson's

By Griff
New findings regarding the dangers to health by soft drinks has caused fear in the UK and is sure to cause concern in other parts of the world, according to a report published in the Irish Independent.

Soda could be doing more damage than you think Credit: unknown Copyright: unknown Enlarge + According to recent research, carried out by Sheffield University in the UK, a preservative that is commonly found in soft drinks can cause essential parts of human DNA to stop working, leading to serious health problems.

The health problems most commonly thought to arise from this preservative are not what most would associated with drinking a soda or fruit juice, but more with the aging process and excessive alcohol consumption.

Many of us know today that too much soda should be avoided as it can lead to dental problems. But the new research reveals that the preservative commonly found in soft drinks can also lead to cirrhosis and Parkinson's.

The head expert that worked on the study, Peter Piper, took a close look at this common preservative, known as E211, otherwise called sodium benzoate. Piper told the Independent that "these chemicals have the ability to cause severe damage to DNA in the mitochondria to the point that they totally inactivate it, they knock it out altogether. The mitochondria consumes the oxygen to give you energy and if you damage it then the cell starts to malfunction very seriously."

Sodium benzoate or E211 has been used in soft drinks for many years. This isn't the first time this commonly used preservative has been the subject of controversy. Last year it was causing fear over its potential to cause cancer if it was combined with vitamin C. It was found that when E211 was combined with Vitamin C, a carcinogenic was created, called benzene. Last year the Food Standards Agency in the UK investigated a number of soft drinks that had this combination and found four to have unsafe levels of benzene. As a result these four drinks were taken from store shelves.

Many may be wondering what the purpose of E211 is and why it is so commonly used. The reason E211 is used is that is keeps the soft drinks fresh by not allowing mould and other harmful bacteria to grow. E211 isn't just found in soft drinks, it can be found in other food products such as salad dressing.

Both the food agencies in the US and Europe have sodium benzoate as an approved safe to use substance. However, Piper was quick to point out that the test carried out by these two food agencies were old and now inaccurate.

Piper said, "By the criteria of modern safety testing, the safety tests were inadequate. Like all things, safety testing moves forward and you can conduct a much more rigorous safety test than you could 50 years ago. We are feeding vast amounts of them to children inadvertently. Is this a completely safe process?"