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Too much benzene

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TRACE benzene was found in more than half the beverage products tested in a recent Australian study, and at up to four times the WHO’s benchmark level, prompting Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) to ask Australian beverage makers to review existing and newly formulated products.

However, FSANZ said the carcinogenic chemical was not found at levels high enough to pose a risk to public health.

“In the long term, it is not a good thing to have in your food, but in our view, these amounts are not a health risk,”said a FSANZ spokesperson.

FSANZ sampled 68 flavoured beverages, purchased from typical retail outlets, and analysed by a suitably qualified independent laboratory.

Australian Beverage Council (ABC) director Tony Gentile referred manufacturers of flavoured beverages where benzene was found at levels of 1ppb and above to a guidance document produced by the International Council of Beverages Associations (ICBA) on minimising benzene formation.

The ABC will survey member company compliance each year, looking at formulation reviews as well as tests under high temperatures and long storage times.

It starts in late 2006, and will report its findings to relevant government regulatory bodies.

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