Talk:Benzene in soft drinks

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Sodium Benzoate is not Benzoic acid[edit]

This article states in the first paragraph the following: "The benzene results from decarboxylation of the preservative benzoic acid in the presence of ascorbic acid (vitamin C) especially under heat and light." While I do believe that Benzoic acid is a preservative naturally found in fruits, it is not water soluble like the lab produced form - Sodium Benzoate, which is why the latter is prefefered in soft drinks. See:

Since this article is about soft drinks I assume that this sentence should therefore rather read as follows: "The benzene results from decarboxylation of the preservative Sodium benzoate in the presence of ascorbic acid (vitamin C) especially under heat and light." Please edit this to reflect the correct form in the article.-- (talk) 10:29, 6 April 2013 (UTC)


That whole page was in serious need of factual and chronological editing. The last edit was just outright wrong and linked to an old preliminary FDA page (not the new results page). Hopefully the following chronology is now clear:

  1. The entire problem began in the early 1990's, when soft drink industry reps approached FDA with concerns.
  2. It was cleared-up by the mid-1990s, and manufacturers voluntarily agreed to reformulate
  3. FDA tested for benzene, but did not follow up on these results from the late 1990's
  4. FDA was re-alerted to benzene in beverages in late 2005 by private lab results. Other international food agencies were alerted in Feb 2006 by a newspaper article.
  5. The media and EWG kept on the agencies' cases from Feb. through May to do something.
  6. The UK and EU food agencies acted within 1.5 months.
  7. The FDA released preliminary results almost 7 months after receiving initial concerns.

Additionally, the following health impacts/results should be clear:

  1. The Total Diet Study results were erroneous because of a flawed analytical procedure
  2. The levels of benzene in the drinks do not pose an immediate risk to humans, but some beverages do pose a lifetime cancer risk that is higher than acceptable to most food and environmental regulatory agencies. Benzene is no-threshold toxicant that is known to cause leukemia (AML).
  3. FDA and the manufacturers are not yet sure about the variability of benzene formation in soft drinks.

I've also taken a bit of time to fix references. The news inferno reference, for example, was back-dated to February 20th, when it was really published in mid-March. The Mercer article is the original one.

Although I'm certainly not personally NPOV here, this is a much better framework with correct citations.

Kristan 04:41, 20 May 2006 (UTC)

The entire section "Environmental exposure to benzene" looks as though it was written by a lobbyist for the soft drink industry. Comparing the health risks of Benzene in soft drinks to smoking, and then implying that it's safe because it's not as bad as smoking is silly. I'm removing the sentence "Provided that drinking water supplies are safe, the occasional consumption of a soft drink containing high levels of benzene is unlikely to pose a significant health hazard." until someone puts a reference for that sentence in there, although I think the whole section should be removed. Cosentino

I originally wrote that section (and much of the rest of the article) and I'm no lobbyist. I think you'll find a drinks industry lobbyist wouldn't talk about benzene at all as it's a complete embarrassment to them. It's quite clear from the article that if drinking water limits are 1 ppb benzene (EU), then there's no excuse for producing a drink with, say, 87.9ppb. (I think I wrote something to that effect originally but it got deleted as 'POV'.) Where they've been found out, the drinks manufacturers have been forced to withdraw their products, as is clear from later in the article. However, as some Wikipedia readers might get overly worried because they've just drunk a can of some transgressing drink, it's important to reassure them that there's no imminent danger. What's more worrying is the levels of benzene in the environment generally. If we want to reduce people's exposure to benzene, then banning smoking from enclosed areas would be a good first step. Nunquam Dormio 08:09, 28 November 2006 (UTC)

Near the end under heading "2008": "Coca-Cola announced that it would be phasing out sodium benzoate from many of its drinks, but not Fanta and Dr Pepper". I want to note that Dr. Pepper is not a Coca-Cola product. (talk) 22:34, 17 November 2008 (UTC)

Bottles and benzene[edit]


Suggests also a possible contamination by the PETE bottle itself!

Investigation into the benzene and toluene content of soft drinks Fabietti F.1; Delise M.; Piccioli Bocca A. Food Control, Volume 12, Number 8, December 2001, pp. 505-509(5) DOI: 10.1016/S0956-7135(01)00041-X

Survey of benzene in foods by using headspace concentration techniques and capillary gas chromatography. McNeal TP, Nyman PJ, Diachenko GW, Hollifield HC. U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Division of Food and Chemical Technology, Washington, DC 20204. J AOAC Int. 1993 Nov-Dec;76(6):1213-9.

1993 there was a search for benzene in soft drinks.

--Stone 06:33, 22 May 2006 (UTC)

Benzene in other food products?[edit]

Hey guys. I read up a bit on this subject after a warning appeared in the local paper.

While shopping recently, I discovered Sodium Benzoate and Citric Acid (Two reagents that under the right conditions could yeild Sodium Citrate and Benzene) in food items like Diet Coke and a bottle labeled as "Strawberry Sauce", "Grape Sauce", and others, in a local dollar store.

Has anyone ever heard of these Benzene tests being conducted on foods other than soft drinks? I would be interesting to know just how much of these chemicals are making it into the system without much notice...

Logical2u 21:15, 30 May 2006 (UTC)

There are many foods that contain anywhere from trace to high levels of benzene. The McNeal reference provided above by Stone (which I should have cited too), as well as the TDS study in the main article itself contain lab results about a range of foods, However, because the amounts of these foods consistently eaten daily are generally low compared to soft drinks (which are consumed, on average, en masse), these other foods are much less of a concern. If someone wants to start an entire article on the human exposure to benzene (there is a lot out there), this might be good (given all the benzene lawyers out there), but that is a major task.

Kristan 16:22, 31 May 2006 (UTC)

Latest edits[edit]

Is there a source for: On average, people breathe in 220μg (micrograms) of benzene every day. For smokers, cigarette smoking is the main source of exposure at 7900μg per day.

I've seen 180 μg for Americans with up to 1300 μg for smokers, while Canadians/Europeans have somewhat lower levels. See: Opinion on certain aromatic hydrocarbons present in food (expressed on 20/1/1999). Also by hand calculating different values using results from CONCAWE ( - EU oil company assocation) one obtains slightly lower numbers, too, though it depends on urban/rural settings.

If there is no reference, it should probably Kristan 23:41, 2 June 2006 (UTC)

Nunquam Dormio 09:59, 3 June 2006 (UTC)Yes, there is a source. I'll whack it in when I have a moment. This doesn't rule out the possibility that different sources have different figures.

Nunquam Dormio 11:02, 3 June 2006 (UTC) Source is "Survey of Benzene in Soft Drinks which in turn references European Commission Joint Research Centre, HEXPOC Human Exposure Characterization of chemical substances; quantification of exposure routes, p 36-59, 2005, EU 21501 EN. I'd imagine the atmospheric figures for rural North America would be rather lower.

Does the average include smokers, or is this just for nonsmokers? -- 19:45, 25 July 2006 (UTC)

The answer is on numbered page 43 (PDF page 45) of HEXPOC. The 220μg/day is air inhalation exposure so I'd interpret this as separate from smoking and refilling tanks. I'll reword the text to improve its clarity. Nunquam Dormio 06:06, 26 July 2006 (UTC)

"Coca-Cola announced that it would be phasing out sodium benzoate from many of its drinks, but not Fanta and Dr Pepper." Is this change in the UK only? —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 06:44, 3 June 2008 (UTC)


Nunquam Dormio 12:36, 3 June 2006 (UTC) Query: In February, 2006, a former chemist at Cadbury Schweppes publicly revealed that benzene may be created as part of a chemical reaction during production of soft drinks, particularly those having an orange flavor.

The reference cited doesn't support these details. Can we find a reference that does or reword or delete?

Kristan 23:32, 4 June 2006 (UTC) Added it...


We give the air/smoking exposure in micrograms ingested but the soft drink contamination in ppb. In order to aid people's efforts to calculate their personal exposure we should explain how to calculate micrograms ingested by multiplying their daily consumption by the ppb figures. -- Derek Ross | Talk 21:15, 17 September 2006 (UTC)

I've made an edit that should make things clearer. Nunquam Dormio 07:34, 18 September 2006 (UTC)
Thanks. That makes it much clearer. -- Derek Ross | Talk 23:44, 12 October 2006 (UTC)

Not sure if this is useful or not... From

In dilute aqueous systems at room temperature and 1 atmosphere of pressure, 1 liter (L) of water weighs 1 kilogram (kg). Therefore, 1 milligram (mg) of a contaminant in 1 liter (L) of water has a concentration of 1 mg/L, which is the same as 1 mg of contaminant/1 kg of water on a mass/mass basis. Since there are 1 million mg in 1 kg, the kg in the denominator may be converted to 1 million mg. So our 1 mg/L solution is equivalent to 1 mg/1,000,000 mg. This is referred to as "1 part per million" or ppm in aqueous solutions. Similarly, 1 μg/L is referred to as "1 part per billion" or ppb in dilute aqueous solutions because there are 1 billion micrograms in 1 kg.


That I belive refers to ppb by mass, as I understand it, ppb and ppm are usually a ratio of the number of molecules. ie 1ppm = 1 micromole/mole and 1ppb = 1 nanomole/mole. Fitz05 00:01, 29 November 2006 (UTC)

PoV in Environmental exposure to benzene section?[edit]

Seems at least somewhat PoV to me, since it is presenting facts that although are facts, are facts supporting one side only. I'll reword myself later, perhaps. -- Havocrazy 08:08, 22 January 2007 (UTC)

Errrr... Which way? It has the PoVs that the amount of benzene in soft drinks are small compared to other environmental benzene exposures and that for an individual, the risks are minuscule, but when there are many individuals (the whole world), there is a small percentage of leukemia that will probably be caused by it. What other PoVs are out there? Kristan 18:02, 22 January 2007 (UTC)

Havocrazy, I'd be interested to see your proposed rewording on this talk page. Presumably, if you think it's one-sided, then the words you object to are "While there is no justification for a soft drink to contain high levels of benzene…". If so, I'd like to hear what the justification is. Nunquam Dormio 19:53, 22 January 2007 (UTC)
Apologies for the delayed reply; I haven't had time to get on. Most of the reason I marked it as PoV, possibly, is because as Kristan said it appears to present a number of facts that seem to attempt to make a reader feel that benzene amount in soft drinks is quite low. The tone and placement just seem to convey a biased view, in my opinion. I realize that these facts are true and the point is sensible, but I was a bit concerned that it could have been an attempt to make the worries about this seem insignificant. As for the "While there is no justification..." part, that might seem PoV to a hypothetical culture that prefers consuming benzene in soft drinks, but for humans at least it is probably true. The source of the quote seems ok, from an ex-FDA official... So my primary gripe is with the presentation of facts. I can't think of much to change, although a bit more expanded info on the effects of this benzene would help; I'll try to find some later. This is just the two paragraphs flipped around, as I think it helps somewhat to have the context, sort of like a disclaimer, a bit further down. But then again, it could be perceived as overreacting to the dangers of benzene...
"Taking the worst example found to date, of a soft drink containing 87.9ppb benzene, someone drinking a 500ml can would ingest 44μg of benzene. While there is no justification for a soft drink to contain high levels of benzene ("There is a difference here between a small and unavoidable risk, and a small but avoidable risk.” [7]), the occasional consumption of such a drink is unlikely to pose a significant health hazard to a particular individual (see for example the EPA IRIS document on benzene[8]). However, spread out over billions of people consuming soft drinks each day there will be a small number of cancers caused by this exposure[9]."
Benzene in soft drinks should be seen in context. Daily personal exposure to benzene is determined by adding exposure from all sources. People breathe in 220μg (micrograms) of benzene every day due to general atmospheric pollution. A motorist refilling a fuel tank would inhale a further 32μg. For smokers, cigarette smoking is the main source of exposure: a 20 cigarette per day smoker would take in 7900μg per day.[5][6]. -- Havocrazy 02:16, 24 January 2007 (UTC)
I certainly don't mind if someone else thinks the 2nd paragraph should go first (I added a bit of text, because I thought it had become one-sided POV), but as mentioned in the first talk entry, I'm definitely not an NPOV actor here myself (see my talk pages). The listed figure of 220μg/day is higher than all the other daily exposures I looked at for a normal person (I saw 100-200μg/day including all sources, which would increase the importance of potential daily benzene exposure from soft drinks), but all the other exposure citations require a calculation (which is against Wikipedia guidelines for original research). That said, I think, if the 2nd paragraph goes first, then it needs a bit of an intro (the text is currently designed for the 2nd paragraph). Kristan 12:59, 25 January 2007 (UTC)

I've had a go: see what you think. --Nunquam Dormio 21:04, 25 January 2007 (UTC)

Ah, looks good. Thanks for your work and all :) -- Havocrazy 07:01, 28 January 2007 (UTC)

7Up Natural[edit]

I removed the following:

While healthier than its predecessor, critics charge that 7Up has no right to call the product "all-natural" as it still contains high fructose corn syrup.[1]

Whether or not 7Up Natural is all natural or not is irrelevant unless it has something to do with benzene in soft drinks. This might be useful in the 7Up article if it isn't there already but not here Nil Einne 14:15, 10 March 2007 (UTC)

Actually on consideration care should be taken if moving that to another article. Ut makes the claim the the 'all-natural' product is healthier then its predecessor. This is of course impossible to prove and should not be presented as fact Nil Einne 14:19, 10 March 2007 (UTC)
  1. ^ Theresa Howard Food, beverage marketers seek healthier images USA Today 19–20 April 2006

Cell Damage[edit]

Should this be included?

No, he has nothing scientifically published yet, soit remains to vague and speculative that it does not(yet) justify inclusion. And if this turns out to be true and relevant it would probably have to go into the benzoic acid article. Cacycle 16:25, 27 May 2007 (UTC)


The following references apear to be dead:

Spectrus (talk) 14:12, 26 September 2008 (UTC)

Thanks for pointing these out Spectrus

Nunquam Dormio (talk) 13:24, 27 September 2008 (UTC)

No justification[edit]

"While there is no justification for a soft drink to contain high levels of benzene ("There is a difference here between a small and unavoidable risk, and a small but avoidable risk.”[5]), the casual consumption of such a drink is unlikely to pose a significant health hazard to a particular individual (see, for example, the EPA IRIS document on benzene[6])."

The part in bold is the author's interpretation of the quote; not what the quote says. Even if that was what the quote said, it's still just a quote from an ex-FDA employee. It doesn't prove anything. Fixing. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 04:10, 16 July 2012 (UTC)

Relevance of the Perrier contamination[edit]

I just added a couple of citation tags to this section, but now I'm thinking it should probably just be deleted altogether. This article is about the problem of benzene forming from benzoic acid in soft drinks. Perrier is neither a soft drink, nor was it contaminated by that process. It was an isolated incident.

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Credible discussion on the origin, natural occurrence and importance of benzene presence in soft drinks[edit]

Derek_Lowe_(chemist) wrote a blog article on the subject "Sodium Benzoate Non Sense". . I think it contains a lot of information from a reputable source on the matter and also shows how poor chemistry knowledge is used by brands to market their products (here Panera using the fact that sodium benzoate is for fireworks not for food).