FDA Study Shows Unsafe Benzene Levels In Soda

Posted by Slobokan @ 15:50 · 1,826 words · print

Earlier today I received an email from Carrie Gouldin from the Environmental Working Group.

It appears the FDA released some information on Friday pertaining to benzene in soda, and I thought you all might like to see it.

Here is the report from the FDA:

Data on Benzene in Soft Drinks and Other Beverages
Data from November 2005 through April 20, 2006

Background

In November 2005, FDA received private laboratory results reporting low levels of benzene in a small number of soft drinks that contained benzoate salts (an antimicrobial) and ascorbic acid (vitamin C). FDA has no regulatory limits for benzene in beverages other than bottled water, for which FDA uses the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) maximum contaminant level (MCL) of 5 ppb for drinking water, as a quality standard.

Benzene is found in the air from emissions from burning coal and oil, gasoline service stations, and motor vehicle exhaust. Benzene is a carcinogen and has caused cancer in workers exposed to high levels from workplace air. Benzene can form at the parts per billion (ppb) level in some beverages that contain both benzoate salts and ascorbic acid (vitamin C) or erythorbic acid (a closely related substance (isomer) also known as d-ascorbic acid). Elevated temperatures and light can stimulate benzene formation in the presence of benzoate salts and vitamin C, while sugar and EDTA salts inhibit benzene formation.

As follow-up to the November 2005 benzene findings, FDA's Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (CFSAN) initiated a limited survey of beverages with a focus on soft drinks that contain both benzoate salts and ascorbic or erythorbic acid. The vast majority of beverages sampled to date (including those containing both benzoate preservative and ascorbic acid) contain either no detectable benzene or levels below the 5 ppb limit for drinking water.

The data

FDA is posting results obtained between November 2005 through April 20, 2006, from CFSAN's ongoing survey of benzene in beverages. Over 100 soft drinks and other beverage samples were collected from retail stores in Maryland, Virginia, and Michigan. Only four beverage products containing both added benzoates and ascorbic acid contained benzene levels above the 5 ppb EPA drinking water MCL. One light cranberry juice beverage product with added ascorbic acid and only natural levels of benzoic acid (i.e., no added benzoates) also contained benzene above 5 ppb. Data are presented in Table 1. We are presenting these data to inform the public of FDA's progress. We will update Table 1 with results from additional samples that we intend to collect and analyze.

Limits of the data

These data should not be understood to be a reflection of the distribution of benzene in beverages in the US food supply. The data cover a limited number of products, a limited number of brands, and a limited geographic region. The data do not fully address the variation from one production lot of a product to another lot. For example, when additional lots of some beverage samples initially found to contain benzene levels greater than 5 ppb were analyzed, the results indicate that benzene levels can be highly variable from lot to lot. Even products from the same lot collected at different locations may have different benzene levels depending on many factors such as time at elevated temperatures and amount of light exposure during shipping, handling, and storage. Finally, the choice of products for testing in this limited survey should not be taken as an indicator of product choices by consumers.

What this means for consumers

Because of the limited survey data to date, we cannot yet understand the sources of variation in measured benzene levels, such as variability between different product lots and the effects of storage and handling. For example, although one sample from a production lot may contain elevated benzene levels, it does not mean that all the products from that lot will have elevated levels, or that all lots of a given product will contain elevated levels. We will continue to collect and analyze samples and to work with industry to better understand the sources of variability. We believe that appropriate steps currently are being taken by industry as well as FDA to make sure that benzene formation in beverages is minimized to levels below the drinking water standard of 5 ppb. FDA has followed up with companies whose samples of products were found to contain elevated levels of benzene in CFSAN's recent survey. FDA will continue to follow up with manufacturers as survey results warrant. Manufacturers either have reformulated or are reformulating products that have been identified as containing greater than 5 ppb benzene. CFSAN tested a few of the reformulated products provided by the manufacturers and found that benzene levels were less than 1 ppb. These reformulated products are identified as reformulated in Table 1. Additional consumer information may be found in FDA's Statement "Benzene in Soft Drinks" and "Questions and Answers on the Occurrence of Benzene in Soft Drinks and Other Beverages."

Notes for Table 1:

  1. n.d. = nondetect (below the limit of detection (LOD) described in note 3 below for each respective method).
  2. The designation "reformulated" identifies those products that manufacturers have reformulated to reduce or eliminate benzene formation in response to recent reports that benzene has been found in some products.
  3. For Method 1, the estimated limit of detection (LOD) is 0.2 ppb when benzene is determined with cryogenic focusing using the m/z 78 ion in the scan mode. For Method 2, the estimated LOD is 0.02 ppb when benzene is determined without cryogenic focusing using the m/z 78 ion in the SIM mode.
  4. Confirmation of benzene identity on the basis of ions m/z 78, 77, and 51, provides a higher degree of certainty that benzene was present in a sample. Ion ratios of m/z 77 divided by m/z 78 and m/z 51 divided by m/z 78 were used to confirm benzene identity. The ability to confirm benzene in soft drinks is matrix dependent and may be as low as 0.5 ppb or as high as 1.4 ppb.
  5. The reportable limit of quantitation (LOQ) with confirmation is estimated to be approximately 1 ppb for benzene in beverages. Samples below this level but above the LOD were reported as <1 ppb; benzene may or may not be present in these samples (see note 3).
  6. Soft drinks with multiple results usually were from different bottles within the same lot.
  7. Results indicate benzene levels measured on individual purchased beverages.
  8. Samples were collected and analyzed by CFSAN.
  9. Table 1: Benzene Levels in Beverage Product Samples
    PRODUCT FOUND, ppb
    METHOD
    1
    METHOD
    2
    Products Containing Benzoate Only Safeway Select Diet Root Beer, lot 1 <1  
    Safeway Select Diet Root Beer, lot 2 <1  
    Safeway Select Diet Cola, lot 1 1.3  
    Safeway Select Diet Cola, lot 2 <1  
    Food Lion Caffeine Free Diet Cola with Splenda 1.1  
    Diet Dr. Pepper <1  
    Diet Coke Sweetened with Splenda <1  
    Diet Coke <1  
    Diet Pepsi, lot 1 <1  
    Diet Pepsi, lot 2 <1  
    Diet Rite Cola <1  
    A&W Root Beer n.d.  
    Diet A&W Root Beer n.d.  
    Dr. Pepper <1  
    Diet Cherry Vanilla Dr. Pepper <1  
    Diet Pepsi Lime n.d.  
    Giant Diet Sun Pop Orange, lot 1 3.5  
    Giant Diet Sun Pop Orange, lot 2   <1
    Diet Sunkist Orange Soda, lot 1 <1  
    Diet Sunkist Orange Soda, lot 2 n.d.  
    Faygo Creme Soda n.d.  
    Faygo Orange <1  
    Sprite <1  
    Diet Sprite Zero n.d.  
    Canada Dry Ginger Ale <1  
    Squirt Citrus Burst n.d.  
    Diet Ruby Red Squirt Citrus Berry Burst n.d.  
    Diet Rite Tangerine Soda n.d.  
    Jones FuFu Berry Soda <1  
    Jones Sugar-Free Black Cherry Soda n.d.  
    Canfield's Red Raspberry Sparkling Water Beverage n.d. <1
    Fanta Orange   n.d.
    Giant Diet SunPop Orange   n.d.
    Crush Orange   <1
    Safeway Select Clear Sugar Free Tropical Sparkling Water n.d.  
    Nestea Cool Sweetened Lemon Iced Tea n.d.  
    AquaCal Strawberry Flavored Water Beverage (reformulated)   n.d.
    AquaCal Peach Mango Flavored Water Beverage (reformulated)   n.d.
    American Fare Kiwi Strawberry Sparkling Water n.d.  
    Canfield's Red Raspberry Sparkling Water   <1
    Fresca Sparkling Peach Citrus Flavored Soda* n.d.  
    Diet 7-UP with Splenda* n.d.  
    Fresca, Sparkling Citrus*   n.d.
    Minute Maid Lemonade* <1  
    Minute Maid Pink Lemonade* <1  
    Products Containing Benzoate + Ascorbic acid (Vitamin C) or Erythorbic Acid Sunkist Orange Soda <1  
    Safeway Select Diet Orange, lot 1 79.2  
    Safeway Select Diet Orange, lot 2 15.2 10.7
    Safeway Select Diet Orange, lot 3 13.2 11.4
    Safeway Select Diet Orange, lot 4   1.2
    Shasta Caffeine Free Orange Soda 1.9  
    Antarctica Guarana   <1
    Fanta Pineapple   <1
    Crush Pineapple   9.2
    Sunny D Citrus Punch, lot 1 1.1  
    Sunny D Citrus Punch, lot 2 3.5  
    Sunny D Tangy Original Citrus Punch n.d. n.d.
    Country Time Lemonade n.d.  
    Hawaiian Punch Fruit Juicy Red, lot 1 n.d.  
    Hawaiian Punch Fruit Juicy Red, lot 2 n.d.  
    Tropicana Twister Orange Soda n.d.  
    AquaCal Strawberry Flavored Water Beverage, lot 1 23.4  
    AquaCal Strawberry Flavored Water Beverage, lot 1 (reserve)†   <1
    AquaCal Strawberry Flavored Water Beverage, lot 2 10.4 9.2
    AquaCal Peach Mango Flavored Water Beverage, lot 1 2.6  
    AquaCal Peach Mango Flavored Water Beverage, lot 2 4.0 3.4
    AquaCal Concord Grape Flavored Water Beverage 4.6 4.0
    Lo-Carb MONSTER Energy Supplement <1  
    ROCKSTAR Energy Drink <1 <1
    BellyWashers Black Cherry Blast Vitamin C Juice Drink, lot 1 2.3 2.0
    BellyWashers Black Cherry Blast Vitamin C Juice Drink, lot 2   1.6
    BellyWasher Battle Berry Vitamin C Juice Drink, lot 1 2.0 1.6
    BellyWashers Battle Berry Vitamin C Juice Drink, lot 2   1.3
    BellyWashers Web Berry Vitamin C Juice Drink   1.8
    BellyWashers Eerie Berry Vitamin C Juice Drink   2.8
    SunnyD Intense Sport, Lemon/Lime   n.d.
    Giant Fruity Punch Cooler   <1
    Hawaiian Punch, Fruit Juicy Red   n.d.
    Diet Mountain Dew, lot 1** <1  
    Diet Mountain Dew, lot 2** <1  
    Faygo Moon Mist** 2.8  
    Faygo Moon Mist**   1.4
    Diet Pepsi Twist, lot 1*   n.d.
    Diet Pepsi Twist, lot 2*   <1
    Pepsi Vanilla*   <1
    Sierra Mist Free Diet Lemon-Lime Soda* n.d.  
    Slice One Diet Berry Soda*   n.d.
    Slice One Diet Orange Soda*   n.d.
    Tropicana Twister Orange*   n.d.
    Sierra Mist Free, Lemon-Lime*   n.d.
    Hi-C Blast Orange* n.d.  
    Hi-C Blast Orange Supernova* <1  
    Crystal Light Sunrise Classic Orange, lot 1* 76.6 87.9
    Crystal Light Sunrise Classic Orange, lot 2* 1.4 1.1
    Crystal Light Sunrise Classic Orange, lot 3*   73.9
    Crystal Light Sunrise Classic Orange, lot 4* n.d.  
    Crystal Light Sunrise Classic Orange, lot 5 (reformulated)*   <1
    Tropicana Orangeade* n.d.  
    Mountain Dew Sugar Free MDX Energy Soda* n.d.  
    Rush! Energy Lite Drink* 1.4  
    AMP Energy Drink* <1  
    Kool-Aid Jammers 10 Juice Drink Tropical Punch* 2.9 2.3
    Kool-Aid Jammers Juice Drink Kiwi-Strawberry, lot 1* 2.0 1.5
    Kool-Aid Jammers Juice Drink Kiwi-Strawberry, lot 2 (reformulated)* <1  
    Kool-Aid Jammers 10 Juice Drink Cherry*   <1
    Country Time Lemonade*   n.d.
    Other Pepsi Cola (no benzoate, ascorbate, or EDTA) n.d.  
    Crystal Light Sunrise Classic Orange, powder (ascorbate only) n.d.  
    Ocean Spray Cranberry Juice Cocktail (ascorbate only)*** <1  
    Ocean Spray Light Cranberry Juice Cocktail, lot 1 (ascorbate only)*** 3.0 2.5
    Ocean Spray Light Cranberry Juice Cocktail, lot 2 (ascorbate only)***   4.8
    Giant Light Cranberry Juice Cocktail, lot 1 (ascorbate only)*** 10.7 9.1
    Giant Light Cranberry Juice Cocktail, lot 2 (ascorbate only)***   5.4
    NEW Crystal Light Sunrise Classic Orange (ascorbate, EDTA)   1.6

    *Contains EDTA (a food ingredient used to promote flavor retention)
    **Contains erythorbic acid (d-ascorbic acid, an isomer of vitamin C)
    ***May contain natural benzoic acid (benzoate)
    † Manufacturer's warehoused reserve sample from this lot

Check that table closely for the soft drinks you drink. Check it again for those you allow your children to drink. When you see examples like Safeway Select Diet Orange coming in at 17 times the allowable limit for drinking water, you have to ask yourself. Why?

Most of the items on the list contained traces of benzene. While benzene is naturally occuring, we all know it's not natural for the levels to be so high.

I know some of you find it hard to believe that a conservative guy like me would be concerned with evironmental issues, but it's time we all, conservatives and liberals alike, start doing something about these issues.

From the Environmental Working Group website:

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

I agree. While many sit and debate the seriousness of benzene exposure from soda, wouldn't it be prudent to remove the ingredients that cause the benzene to form in the first place, especially because we really don't know the full extent of the risk, and any risk is just a little too much.

You can read more about benzene in soda at the EWG website.

Posted In: FYI

2 Comments

  1. Posted by Bill K.

    December 3, 2006 @ 02:07

    If 5ppb are OK for water to b If 5ppb are OK for water to be pure, how can I get excited about

  2. Posted by Erin

    December 3, 2006 @ 02:07

    Thanks for all the informatio Thanks for all the information, I've been following this issue and am actually not overly concerned. I don't drink any of the sodas named in the articles, and when I do drink it is infrequently and as part of a balanced diet. Since the tests are comparing the level found in soda to that found in drinking water I think you're fine as long as you're not pounding soda at some ungodly rate. :D

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