"All the World's a Stage We Pass Through" R. Ayana

Sunday, 9 July 2006

Benzene in drinks killing you softly

Benzene in drinks killing you softly

By Kirsty Needham


BENZENE, a poison more often found in tobacco smoke and air pollution, has been discovered in half the soft drinks tested on the shop shelves.

In some cases, the benzene level was 40 times the level recommended for safe drinking water by the National Health and Medical Research Council.

The national food regulator, Food Standards, said 10 per cent of flavoured beverages had benzene traces at "undesirable levels" that exceeded World Health Organisation guidelines.

The regulator's sampling found that fruit juices and fruit-flavoured soft drinks with added vitamin C were likely to contain more benzene. Sodium benzolate (additive 211) is used as a preservative. When it is combined with Vitamin C, the likelihood of benzene being created increases.

Food Standards has asked the soft-drink industry to reformulate its products and take steps to lower benzene levels. The chief executive of the Australian Beverages Council, Tony Gentile, said the council had "advised manufacturers of how to minimise the incidence of benzene".

The NHMRC website states that benzene causes leukaemia, and as such "there is no safe or acceptable concentration for it in drinking water".

Food Standards did not name the soft drinks, but Mr Gentile said most manufacturers were affected.

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