Benzene in CO2 causes UK drinks withdrawals


LONDON (CNI)--Two UK drinks manufacturers were Monday withdrawing carbonated bottled water products from the marketplace after tests revealed products contained unacceptable levels of benzene.

Brecon Natural Spring Water is withdrawing its Brecon Carreg water and Coca Cola and Schweppes Beverages (CCS), the manufacturer and bottler of all Coca Cola and Schweppes products, has withdrawn its Malvern Sparkling Spring Water.

The British Soft Drinks Association (BSDA) expects more drinks manufacturers to withdraw batches of products over the next two days, as test results come in. Brecon was the first company involved to obtain the results of initial tests, and a spokesman for the company said "tens of thousands" of bottles would be affected across the UK.

Although the exact benzene levels found in these products were not available, a spokeswoman for the British Soft Drinks Association (BSDA) said the "trend" was for drinks which contained benzene levels above the World Health Organisation (WHO) limit of 10 parts per billion to be withdrawn.

The BSDA emphasised that the benzene traces do not raise concerns regarding health, and that the products are being withdrawn on quality grounds. The contaminated carbon dioxide was produced by UK company Terra Nitrogen from its Severnside plant, near Bristol, southwest England. Terra Nitrogen said it has advised its clients not to transfer any carbon dioxide from Severnside to the food and drink industry.

Three distributors, Messer UK, BOC and Hydrogas were supplying the carbon dioxide from Severnside to the carbonated drinks industry, but all have stopped taking product from this source. Messer UK supplied the contaminated carbon dioxide to both Brecon and CCS.

The whole of the UK soft drinks industry is currently carrying out tests, said the BSDA spokeswoman. SmithKline Beecham, which manufactures Lucozade and carbonated Ribena, said it is expecting the results of tests samples on Tuesday, and is likely to recall the products if levels above the WHO limits are detected.