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Benzene Levels in Soft Drinks Above Limit
Wednesday, April 5, 2006; 8:35 PM
WASHINGTON -- Cancer-causing benzene has been found in soft drinks at levels above the limit considered safe for drinking water, the Food and Drug Administration acknowledged Wednesday. Even so, the FDA still believes there are no safety concerns about benzene in soft drinks, or sodas, said Laura Tarantino, the agency's director of food additive safety. "We haven't changed our view that right now, there is not a safety concern, not a public health concern," she said. "But what we need to do is understand how benzene forms and to ensure the industry is doing everything to avoid those circumstances." The admission contradicted statements last week, when officials said FDA found insignificant levels of benzene.
In fact, a different study found benzene at four times the tap water limit, on average, in 19 of 24 samples of diet soda. Tarantino said chemists may have overestimated the amount of benzene and that levels in diet soda were still relatively low compared with other sources of benzene exposure. The samples were collected as part of the FDA's ongoing Total Diet Study, which looks for contaminants and nutrients in many foods and beverages.