Benzene is a natural constituent of crude oil, gasoline, and tobacco smoke, and has been classified as a class A human carcinogen. Does that sound like something you want in your soft drink? Probably not.
Research scientists Glen Lawrence and Lalita Gardner described the exact chemical reaction that takes place between ascorbic acid (Vitamin C) and sodium benzene to form benzene. The groundbreaking research appeared in the early ‘90s in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry.
In 2005, the FDA found that 10 samples of soft drinks out of 200 contained benzene levels over 5 parts per billion, which is above the legal limit. All 10 soft drinks have either been reformulated to meet standards, or just plain taken off the market.
The next year, the FDA released preliminary results for 100 soft drinks. Most of them contained legal levels of benzene, but four products exceeded 5 ppb. Two of the drinks contained benzene 18 times higher than permissible.
According to studies conducted by the Environmental Working Group, there are about 5 and 138 PPB of benzene in Coca-Cola. And, as the American Petroleum Institute stated, “It is generally considered that the only absolutely safe concentration for benzene is zero.” Drink up!
5. Sodium Benzoate
Manufacturers commonly use sodium benzoate as a preservative, and you can find it in carbonated drinks, pickles, soy sauce, dressings, jams and fruit juices, cosmetics, medicines, and so on.
The International Programme on Chemical Safety, and other regulatory bodies, found no adverse effects in humans at doses of 650 to 830 mg. per day. The effects of higher amounts are unknown, but almost certainly bad, judging by the increased obesity rates all over the world. Sodium benzoate does not occur naturally in foods and drinks. Manufacturers try to confuse consumers by masking these preservatives with labels that say antimicrobial nutrients.
If processed foods are not part of your daily diet, there are no risks, but let’s be honest, it is. We all know what an integral part of the modern lifestyle processed, convenient foods are. Coca-Cola is in the process of phasing out the controversial additive in the UK, due to consumer pressure, but fruit-juice based products will still contain it.
The Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy has discovered that 9 of 20 tested samples of commercial high-fructose corn syrup were contaminated with mercury. The Institute also found that 55 kid-friendly foods and soft drinks contained total mercury, which is any combination of inorganic, organic or metallic mercury.
As you can see, there are plenty of products with higher mercury levels than Coke, but the level is still fairly high:
If you are asking yourself how the heck mercury would have gotten into high-fructose corn syrup, here’s a possible answer: mercury-grade caustic soda and hydrochloric acid are primarily used to separate corn starch from the corn kernel, and to adjust the pH level of the process. The contamination seems to occur when mercury-grade caustic soda and outdated mercury cell technology are used in the production of HFCS.
The good news is that mercury-contaminated HFCS is a completely avoidable problem, since mercury-free versions of the two reagents are available.