The US FDA and national food agencies around the globe are reinvestigating the safety of the food and drinks preservative sodium benzoate after a fifteen year hiatus. Soluble benzoates are converted into an antimicrobial form, benzoic acid, in acid conditions and as such are used as preservatives in soft drinks and various foodstuffs. The FDA warned, however, in the early 1990s, that this compound could degrade to benzene through interaction with hydroxyl radicals released by ascorbic or citric acids also present in some food and drink products. An early workaround involved not using ascorbic or citric acid in drinks with benzoates and not using benzoates in foods in which these acids are naturally present. Unfortunately, dozens of current manufacturers were seemingly unaware of the problem and food agencies have been finding benzene levels in soft drinks well above World Health Organization acceptable limits. Agencies are hoping to resolve the issue in order to avoid public concern frothing over.
Drinks safety bubbling under