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Survey on the level of Benzene in soft drinks - CSL Confirmatory Analysis
Project Code: A01050
Benzene has been detected sporadically at low levels in some soft drinks. It is thought that this occurs as a result of an interaction between the preservative sodium benzoate and ascorbic acid (vitamin C). Sodium benzoate is added as a preservative to prevent mould growing in the drinks and vitamin C may be used as an antioxidant or may be naturally present.
People who have inhaled very high levels of benzene in the workplace have been found to have an increased risk of cancer. Benzene is present in the atmosphere from exhaust emissions. On average, people breathe in 220 μg of benzene every day. For smokers cigarette smoking is the main source of exposure at 7900 μg per day.
There is no legal limit for benzene in soft drinks in the UK. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has set a guideline level for benzene in water of 10 μg/kg.
Following reports of benzene in some soft drinks in the US, the Food Standards Agency asked the UK soft drinks industry to provide information on levels in soft drinks sold in the UK. The Agency received aggregate summary data from tests carried out on 230 drinks on sale in the UK. The information provided contained limited details. The highest level of benzene found in the industry data was 8 μg per litre of soft drink. Most levels reported were much lower than this.
The survey reported here was conducted to provide the Agency with details on the possible presence of benzene in soft drinks in the UK.
The Food Survey Information Sheet (06/06) for this survey can be found at: http://www.food.gov.uk/science/surveillance/fsisbranch2006/fsis0606
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