Wednesday, April 12, 2006
...specifically an Israeli suit about benzene in Fanta (which I must admit I didn't know was still marketed).
A request to file a NIS 200 million (USD 43 million) class action lawsuit against the Central Bottling Company (Coca Cola Israel) was submitted to the Tel Aviv District Court.
The plaintiff, Yaakov Huri, who filed the request through his lawyer Yochi Geva, alleges that the Central Bottling Company misled consumers of its Fanta brand soft drinks because the drinks are not suitable for human consumption. The plaintiff claims that the Fanta drinks contain a combination of two ingredients—sodium preservatives and acerbic acid—that together create Benzene, which is believed to be a cancer-causing ingredient in humans.
Two U.S. suits have been filed as well, specifically tied to exposure by kids in kids' drinks:
"It's impossible for parents to know which soft drinks are safe and which contain cancer-causing benzene," said Timothy Newell, one of the plaintiffs.
Atlanta-based In Zone makes BellyWashers, juice drinks that come in reusable bottles featuring Spiderman, Hello Kitty, Scooby Doo and dozens of other well-known characters. Worcester, Mass.-based Polar Beverages makes fruit-flavored sodas and seltzers as well as mixers.
The lawsuits allege that independent laboratory tests found benzene in the companies' drinks at levels above the federal drinking-water limit, which is 5 parts per billion.
* * *
"Benzene is ubiquitous to the environment. It's in the air. It's in dozens of foods, including bananas, meat and eggs," said Kevin Keane, spokesman for the American Beverage Association, the industry group.
* * *
In a statement, Polar Beverages president and CEO Ralph D. Crowley Jr. said all of his company's products are safe.
"Polar is committed to ensuring the safety of our products through in-depth research and testing," Crowley said. Polar Beverages had an independent laboratory test its products as recently as February and no trace of benzene was found, he said.
The U.S.-based group Environmental Working Group asserts danger as well:
A computer investigation by Environmental Working Group (EWG) has uncovered results from a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) testing program that contradict blanket safety assurances about benzene contamination in soft drinks made by a top agency official on March 21, 2006. FDA's data show that 79 percent of diet soda samples tested over a six-year period from 1995 through 2001 were contaminated with benzene at levels above the federal limit for benzene in tap water.
The FDA test results, buried deep within an obscure FDA food testing program called the Total Diet Study, were posted on EWG's Web site, www.ewg.org, just days after a top FDA official assured the public that there was no threat from the presence of the toxic chemical in soft drinks. This weekend, Great Britain's public health agency pulled some soft drink products from store shelves because of benzene contamination.