Hey Coke, US demands “more natural products” too! Sodium benzoate removed from Diet Coke (in Britain)
June 24, 2008
Coca-Cola is phasing out the use of the controversial additive sodium benzoate in Diet Coke because of consumer demand for more natural products. The company said it began removing the preservative (E211) from production lines in January, and so it should be out of circulation by the end of the year. However, the additive removal is only currently planned for products sold in Britain. The Coca-Cola Company could not confirm if any other countries would follow suit.
A spokesperson also said that there are no current plans to remove sodium benzoate from any other of its brands, such as Fanta, Sprite, Oasis and regular Coca-Cola.
“The product is very important technically, especially in fruit-based drinks,” said a spokesperson. “We are currently able to remove it from Diet Coke and we will look at removing it from products where technically possible.”
Sodium benzoate is used as a preservative in soft drinks, jams, fruit juices, pickles, shrimp, pharmaceuticals (especially cough syrups), and soy sauces. It primarily prevents them from going moldy. Recent studies have highlighted health concerns from its use.
However, Coca-Cola insisted the move was not a result of the studies and its removal from Diet Coke is simply a response to consumer preferences for natural.
Why this matters
Last year, research linked sodium benzoate to cell damage. The study was conducted by professor Peter Piper from Sheffield University, an expert in molecular biology and biotechnology.
He tested benzoate on yeast cells and found the preservative spurred an increase in production of oxygen radicals, or free radicals, which several studies have linked to serious illnesses and ageing in general.
Benzoate appeared to attack cells’ mitochondria, damaging their ability to prevent oxygen leaks that create free radicals. Yeast cells were used because of their similarity to human ones, but no research on humans has been done.
Additionally, sodium benzoate was present in the Southampton study, which linked additives to hyperactivity in children.
In the study, two mixes of additives were given to children. While the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) decided the study was insufficient to determine a ban on the colours, it has since sparked the UK Food Standards Agency (FSA) to encourage the voluntary removal of the artificial colours from products.
Because sodium benzoate was present in both mixes but resulted in different effects on hyperactivity, no recommendations have been made on its removal.
Sodium benzoate sensitivity
Persons who have experienced Type 1 hypersensitivity reactions (atopic allergy), respiratory tract symptoms including asthma, or skin reactions such as hives and eczema, may be particularly vulnerable to benzoate sensitivity.
The following symptoms have been linked to ingesting foods with sodium benzoate:
- Urticaria (hives) and angioedema (tissue swelling)
- Rhinitis (nasal congestion due to hay fever)
- Atopic and contact dermatitis
- Cutaneous vasculitis
If you are experiencing these symptoms, try avoiding all processed and “junk” food. If you eat something and experience a reaction, look carefully at the label and see if sodium benzoate is a listed ingredient.