Carcinogen found in Swedish soft drinks

Two popular soft drinks in Sweden contain the cancer-causing substance benzene, according to tests carried out by chemical analysis firm Analycen for the newspaper Göteborgs-Posten and Consumer Content.

Four kinds of drink were researched. Jaffa and Fanta Apelsin (orange) were found to contain benzene levels of 2.2 micrograms per litre and 2.0 micrograms per litre respectively.

There are no defined limits for benzene in soft drinks, but if the levels which apply to water in the EU and the USA are used then the drinks should not contain more than one microgram of the carcinogenic substance per litre.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) upper limit for water is 10 micrograms per litre. By comparison, a smoker takes in around 50 micrograms of benzene per cigarette. The air in a big city usually contains a level of benzene comparable to the WHO water limit.

The head of the National Food Administration’s inspection department, Ulla Nordström, told Dagens Nyheter that the limit for water is set as an appropriate level for daily, lifelong, consumption.

Benzene could be appearing in these products due to a chemical reaction in soft drinks which contain sodium benzoate and ascorbic acid.

The warning of possible benzene in soft drinks was first sounded in the US a month ago.

Spendrups, which produces Jaffa Apelsin, has for some time been testing a new recipe to remove the risk of benzene, but emphasised the fact that the level in its drink is well below the WHO limit.

Swedish Coca Cola, which produces Fanta, said that their drinks do not contain dangerous levels of benzene and that they could not comment further on the tests, since they were not aware of the conditions under which they were conducted.

TT/The Local