Monday, May 28, 2007

Benzene in Soft Drinks? More Information...

EDITORIAL: I have to admit that I drink my share of diet colas -- mostly Caffeine Free Diet Pepsi and Diet Dr. Pepper. Therefore, I decided to do a little more research on this topic. There are THOUSANDS of hits for keywords related to the topic. Two articles, in particular, caught my eye (but others are quite pertinent as well). One (previously linked) deserves further discussion.

The other, provides a 2006 statement from the American Beverage Association saying it will address the benzene problem with soft drink makers. But, don't think the ABA is a champion for the American consumer. Their website now clearly sides with the soft drink makers by claiming benzene levels in soft drinks is not a hazard. It looks like the ABA and soft drink makers are trying CYA tactics due to lawsuits being filed against them. BTW, smaller makers are already paying out on such suits.
There have even been questions raised by an ex-official from the FDA.
The source told (11/2006) it was "embarrassing" the Food and Drug Administration had failed to eradicate benzene residues from all drinks.

"Big companies are very powerful. If you're a regulator with a tight budget, it could have been one of those closets with skeletons in that you don't want to open," the ex-FDA enforcement official said.

The FDA agreed in 1991 for firms to "get the word out and reformulate" privately, without an official guide or limit drawn up. But isolated drinks samples continued to show elevated benzene levels in later FDA Total Diet Surveys. There is little health risk linked to the levels of benzene found in drinks, according to both the FDA and soft drinks industry. "There is a difference here between a small and unavoidable risk, and a small but avoidable risk," the ex-agency source said.

"The FDA seems to think the risk is quite low here. On the other hand, it's in a [non-essential] product nobody needs, and it doesn't have to be there. They claim they can reformulate." That's right -- sodium benzoate or its equally harmful cousin, potassium benzoate, are NOT necessary to the production of soft drinks. They are needed only for the cold-bottling process, which is what the big three (Coca-Cola, Cadbury Schweppes and PepsiCo) use to produce their products. Heat pasteurization would preserve the taste and freshness without the risk of cancer.

So, why don't the soft drink makers use it? MONEY, plain and simple. They cold-bottle drinks now. If the total effects of benzene were widely known, soft drink makers would be forced to remove the substance from their formulas -- causing them to retool for heat pasteurization. Technically, it would be a large and expensive task. So, they continue to feed us carcinogens in order to save their bottom line. Gives you a warm fuzzy, doesn't it?