Health agencies reassure over soft drink cancer link

In collaboration with the Press Association

Health experts have moved to reassure the public over the discovery of traces of benzene in soft drinks.

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) said that the products do not pose a health risk but has called on the drinks industry to conduct more tests, while according to Cancer Research UK the levels said to be involved posed "no significant threat to human health".

Tests by drinks manufacturers have discovered traces of benzene, a chemical known to be linked to cancer, in some soft drinks.

"Let's have further investigations and regular discussions with the drinks industry to check what is happening," an FSA spokesman told the Times.

"If levels are high then the FSA will take action to protect consumers," he added.

A spokesperson from Cancer Research UK said "It is understandable that people might be concerned about the presence of a known carcinogen in soft drinks. But the level of benzene found in these drinks is extremely small and shouldn?t pose any significant threat to human health."

"Nevertheless, we urge drinks manufacturers to take steps to monitor benzene levels in their products and minimise them as far as possible," he added.

Researchers suggest that the substance found its way into drinks through a reaction between two common ingredients, the preservative Sodium benzoate and ascorbic acid (vitamin C).

Sodium benzoate is frequently used in soft drinks. In the UK it is known to be used in Britvic's range of drinks, Pennine flavoured spring water and Shandy Bass.

The government has not revealed which drinks the substance was discovered in. Tests were launched after US regulators discovered levels of benzene in soft drinks and juices.

More than 160 million bottles of Perrier were withdrawn after they were discovered to contain benzene 15 years ago.