Soft drink benzene levels primarily acceptable

22.6.2006

<div>On commission from the Food Safety Authority Evira the Customs Laboratory investigated benzene levels in soft drinks. The total number of samples was 56, and the majority of them showed no benzene. </div>

In 11 samples benzene content was less than 10 micrograms per litre. However, four samples contained more than 10 micrograms per litre. All the four samples were of Vip Solo Orange light manufactured by Vip Juicemaker Oy. The Food Safety Authority has ordered the manufacturer to withdraw the batches in which benzene level exceeded 10 micrograms per litre. Vip Juicemaker Oy has now initiated action to withdraw the analysed product batches from the market.

Pursuant to the requirements of the Food Safety Authority, drink manufacturers shall control benzene levels in their products, if there is reason to suspect that the 10-microgram limit will be exceeded. If control shows excessive benzene levels in the product, and the manufacturer refuses to withdraw the products voluntarily, the Food Safety Authority will implement the withdrawal.

The samples were collected from retail stores in Helsinki region. Some of the samples were taken on week 17 and the rest on week 22.

Benzene can be formed in soft drinks under certain conditions as a result of two substances, benzoic acid and ascorbic acid reacting with each others. Benzoic acid (E 211) and ascorbic acid (E300) are used as food additives in soft drinks. Both compounds are also naturally in berries and fruit that are used as raw materials for soft drinks.

Investigations conducted in different countries indicate that the formation of benzene in soft drinks is promoted by e.g. high storage temperatures, long storage times and exposure to light. On the other hand sugar  appears to prevent benzene formation.

Benzene is a carcinogenic substance. No maximum limit has been set for benzene content in foodstuffs in the food legislation of the European Union or Finland. The World Health Organization WHO has set a maximum limit of 10 micrograms per litre for benzene content in drinking water. Levels that exceed this limit are not considered to represent an acute health risk, but the aim is to minimise the intake of this substance that is known to be carcinogenic. In the European Union, the maximum limit for benzene in drinking water is 1 microgram per litre, and in United States 5 micrograms per litre.

In the Food Safety Authority's view the level of a proven carcinogen in foodstuff must be as low as possible. The 10-micrograms per litre limit defined by the World Health Organization for benzene level in drinking water should not be exceeded in soft drinks.

Detailed information about the products is available on the Internet site of the Authority at www.evira.fi

For more information, please contact

Taina Rautio tel. +358 (0) 50 4921 998 (16.6.)
Arja Kaiponen tel. +358 (0) 50 3868 432
Anja Hallikainen tel. +358 (0) 50 3868 433

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