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Benzene in soft drinks

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**Formation and Regulation of Benzene in Soft Drinks**:
Benzene in soft drinks is formed through the decarboxylation of benzoic acid in the presence of ascorbic acid or erythorbic acid.
– Factors like citric acid, heat, and light can accelerate benzene production in soft drinks.
– Calcium disodium EDTA and sugars can inhibit benzene formation.
– Various authorities have set limits on benzene content in drinking water, ranging from 1 ppb to 10 ppb.
– The EPA and California have public health goals for benzene of 0 ppb and 0.15 ppb.
– Different states in the US have varying limits, with California, Connecticut, New Jersey, and Florida having a limit of 1 ppb.
– The European Union has set a limit of 1 ppb for benzene in drinking water.
– The World Health Organization recommends avoiding benzene whenever technically feasible.

**Environmental Exposure and Health Implications**:
Benzene exposure from soft drinks needs to be considered alongside other environmental sources.
– Daily personal exposure to benzene comes from air, smoking, passive smoking, diet, and drinking water.
– Smokers have high exposure to benzene, with estimates ranging from 1800 μg/day to 7900 μg/day.
– The UK Food Standards Agency stated that consuming a drink with benzene at 10 μg would be equivalent to inhaling benzene from city air daily.
Benzene is a known carcinogen with health implications.
– FDA conducted studies on benzene levels in soft drinks.
– Various outbreaks and scandals related to food safety have occurred.

**Historical Context and Industry Response**:
– In the 1990s, benzene was found in bottles of Perrier, leading to a product recall.
– Research in 1993 highlighted benzene formation in drinks.
– Investigations in 2005 and 2006 revealed benzene levels in beverages above standards.
Coca-Cola announced the phase-out of sodium benzoate from many drinks in 2008.
Coca-Cola Zero and Barqs root beer still contained benzoate as of August 2012.
– Regulatory actions and investigations were taken by the FDA, UK, Germany, and Health Canada regarding benzene in soft drinks.

**Research and Publications on Benzene in Soft Drinks**:
– Studies by Gardner and Lawrence in 1993 highlighted benzene production in drinks.
– BBC News reported on the presence of cancer-causing chemicals in beverages.
Coca-Cola agreed to remove benzene from its soda.
– FDA reopened investigations into benzene contamination in soft drinks.
– The Times covered the removal of soft drinks from shelves due to cancer fears.

**Global Impact of Food Safety Concerns**:
– Notable food safety incidents like the Odwalla E. coli outbreak, E. coli outbreaks in North America, and Canada’s listeriosis outbreak.
– Food scandals like the Chinese milk scandal and Irish pork crisis in 2008.
– Incidents like the 2008 United States salmonellosis outbreak and Germany’s E. coli outbreak in 2011.
– These incidents have shaped food safety regulations and led to increased scrutiny on product safety.
– International cooperation is essential to address food safety challenges.

Benzene in soft drinks is of potential concern due to the carcinogenic nature of the molecule. This contamination is a public health concern and has caused significant outcry among environmental and health advocates. Benzene levels are regulated in drinking water nationally and internationally, and in bottled water in the United States, but only informally in soft drinks. The benzene forms from decarboxylation of the preservative benzoic acid in the presence of ascorbic acid (vitamin C) and metal ions (iron and copper) that act as catalysts, especially under heat and light. Hot peppers naturally contain vitamin C ("nearly as much as in one orange") so the observation about soft drinks applies to pepper sauces containing sodium benzoate, like Texas Pete.

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