THIS WEEK’S OUTRAGE: FDA found frightening levels of the carcinogen BENZENE in popular beverages but didn’t tell the public for 16 years.
ELIZABETH FIEND REPORTS: Remember that Sunny D commercial a few years back where the kids were at the cool house on the block, the house that had a fridge full-up of Sunny D where you could just run in with your sk8 helmet and elbow pads still on and grab unlimited bottles of the sunshine-y stuff? And the mom was all self-righteous as she stood aside and smiled that knowing Mom-smile, and gloated to herself: Once again I’ve completely suckered these little punks, they think they’re grabbing a sugary beverage lacking in any nutrition, but I know different, that Sunny D is fortified with ascorbic acid — I am such a great Mom.
Well Mom, turns out you are more like Union Carbide With Tits. You see, that all fortifying beverages with ascorbic acid (vitamin C) didn’t work out so well. It seems that adding ascorbic acid to beverages that also contain sodium benzoate or potassium benzoate (common preservatives that block the growth of bacteria) was like milk in the desert: a bad idea. When you combine the two, mix in the catalyst of light or heat, you create BENZENE. Yeah, benzene, the industrial chemical that’s found in car exhaust, cigarette smoke and paint fumes. Uh oh Mom, says here long-term exposure to benzene can cause leukemia and other cancers of the blood. Benzene is particularly toxic to children. And wasn’t your fridge, way, way filled-up with the stuff? Weren’t the kids drinking it like 24-7?
(Here’s actual footage, at press time it is unclear if this kid is still alive)
Note to Mom: If you wanted your kids to get vitamin C you should’a put out a bowl of oranges or some strawberries.
I’ve always been against sports drinks and most so called smart foods (foods that have “things” added to them so you can get synthetic vitamins or minerals while avoiding real foods that naturally contain the same vitamins and minerals.) Eat whole foods, OK? But I’m especially troubled by soda because so much soda is consumed by kids, teenagers, hipsters, soccer Moms, NASCAR Dads, AND babies — yes, some parents put sugary beverages in baby bottles! Soda has become the #1 “food” consumed by Americans and it just breaks my heart (I mean it really, really hurts me. I hate to see you drinking this stuff. So cut it out.) I mean even Paris Hilton knows soda sucks. Here’s a quote from her book “Never Drink Diet Coke, Diet Coke Is For Fat People.”
Soda is a dangerous, evil thing, diet soda being a disgusting, dangerous, evil thing. A 12-oz soda contains 3 tablespoons of sugar. Sugar consumption stimulates both opioid and dopamine responses in the brain. Like a drug you can become addicted to sugar. Therefore, eating sweet food makes you crave MORE sweet food.
So what’s wrong with diet soda, you ask, after all it has no sugar? Even though diet soda contains no calories or sugar, it’s the sweetness of these beverages that fuels sugar dependence — real sugar or not. Sugary beverages (real or artificial sugar) make you fat. So the more sweet beverages you drink — diet or regular — the more you’ll crave sweet and the worse your health will become, the more weight you’ll gain and the more at risk you’ll be of developing diabetes, heart disease and a need for dentures (sugar also rots your teeth).
Soda has absolutely no nutritional value. OK, neither does alcohol, but at least you get wasted from drinking alcohol. But soda, when was the last time buying someone a soda got you laid?
To top it all off, soda corporations are nasty, nasty things. In Colombia, Coca-Cola bottlers have been accused of an anti-union campaign involving kidnapping, torture and murder. In India, Pepsi and Coke sodas were found to contain dangerous levels of pesticide residue. In Africa, where AIDS killed 2.3 million people in 2003 alone, Coke — the continent’s largest private employer — is fighting against providing health insurance for its workers. In England consumer pressure had to force Coke to stop airing commercials that encourage kids to bully their parents into buying them soda.
For me the biggest corporate evil is Monsanto’s role in soda. Most diet beverages are sweetened with aspartame (NutraSweet or Equal). Aspartame was developed by Monsanto, the same company that brought us Agent Orange, PCBs and Dixon. Aspartame is actually made using a genetic engineered bacteria, this was kept secret by Monsanto for many years.
Back to benzene in beverages. Doesn’t it just piss you off the that FDA discovered that mixing ascorbic acid and preservatives creates benzene 16 years ago but didn’t release the news to the public until now!?!? Instead they went straight to the lobbyist group, the American Beverage Association, and said why don’t you just take care of this yourself, you know keep it internal, we trust that you’ll fix the problem on your own, we wouldn’t want to hurt your bottom line or anything. OK, some companies corrected the benzene levels in their products, but a lot didn’t. And 16 years later the public is still waiting for a real fix — a ban on adding anything to a beverage that could potentially produce the carcinogenic benzene. It’s not that difficult.
Finally, the Environmental Protection Agency’s safety standard for benzene in America’s drinking water is 5 parts per billion (pp.). For comparison, the European Union allows only 1 pp. in their drinking water, a much stricter level. Why the hell is our accepted level so high? And why is water is the only beverage assigned a safety level?
Hey, you drink any Crystal Light Sunrise Classic Orange lately? Oops, some bottles of that were tested to contain 76.6 ppb of benzene. Safeway Select Diet Orange? 79.2 ppb! (Remember Europe’s safety level is 1 ppb of benzene) Even flavored water isn’t spared, Aquacal Strawberry, 23.4 ppb.
Feel like you could use a nice, cold drink about now?
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Elizabeth Fiend is Philadelphia’s Beloved Revolutionary Sweetheart. Most people don’t know it yet, but that will change. Miss Fiend is host of the Big Tea Party. But enough of my yackin’, here’s Elizabeth with the 411 on her column: “Most people don’t think about the fact that science doesn’t determine our government’s regulations and recommendations for health and the environment, it’s sleazy politicking and backroom lobbying that makes the rules and I would like to bring this fact more to the forefront,” she says. “My philosophy is decidedly anti-big business/governmental lobbying but in line with the science of (my idol, ok crush) Dr. Walter Willett, Harvard University School of Public Health. There’s an edge to it, but it’s not goofy new age-ey stuff with no basis in fact. And besides all that, I am the most fun of all the health advocates. I’m the only one who consistently wears pink and is brewing absinthe in her kitchen (excuse me, that’s illegal, infusing absinthe). Word.