Kraft sued over benzene in soft drinks
By Chris Mercer
Beverage Daily Article
Kraft Foods will face lawsuits in three US states over
allegations that one of its drinks contained
cancer-causing benzene above the legal limit for tap
water, BeverageDaily.com has learned, as pressure
mounts on drinks makers.
Lawyers have filed class action lawsuits against Kraft
Foods in Massachusetts, Florida and reportedly
The actions come after the US Food and Drug
Administration (FDA) said it had found batches of
Kraft’s Crystal Light Sunrise Classic Orange drink
contaminated with benzene at more than 14 times
America’s legal limit for benzene in drinking water.
Independent lab tests have also found a Crystal Light
drink with benzene above the water limit.
Benzene is a known carcinogen.
Kraft Foods has become the latest firm to be targeted
by lawyers amid renewed concerns over benzene in soft
drinks, and the action increases pressure on soft
drinks makers to rigorously check their products.
The Massachusetts and Florida lawsuits against Kraft
also targeted several other soft drinks makers:
PepsiCo, In Zone Brands, Polar Beverages, Talking Rain
Beverage Company and John Doe.
The suits say Kraft, which has been in the food and
beverage business since 1903, should have known about
soft drinks industry and FDA testing in late 1990 that
discovered two common ingredients could react in
drinks to form benzene.
An internal document passed to BeverageDaily.com
details how Kraft’s owner in 1990, the Philip Morris
group, was discussing the general formulation of
Crystal Light, just days before an internal FDA memo,
dated 7 December 1990, said the soft drinks
association approached the agency about the problem
with benzene traces in drinks.
The two ingredients found to react to form benzene in
1990 were benzoate preservatives and ascorbic acid
No public announcement was ever made, and an FDA
scientist told BeverageDaily.com the agency made a
private deal with the industry to “get the word out
The scientist also informed this website in February
this year that the FDA had again found some drinks
containing benzene above the US water limit, which
stands at five parts per billion. There is no specific
limit set for soft drinks.
The FDA said on Friday it suspected the same two
ingredients as the source, but re-iterated that
benzene levels found so far posed no risk to consumer
Kraft Foods said in a statement: “Kraft learned of
this situation earlier this year and stopped producing
and shipping Crystal Light Sunrise Orange single serve
bottles in early February.”
The group said it brought in an independent expert to
help with reformulation and only resumed sales of the
drink once benzene formation had been minimised. The
FDA said it tested the new Crystal Light formulation
and found less than one part per billion benzene.
“Consumer safety is Kraft’s priority. We would not
allow any product on the market if we believed it
posed a safety risk,” the firm said.
The FDA re-opened the benzene case after receiving
results from independent lab tests on drinks last
autumn. It announced on Friday that five drinks,
including Crystal Light, had tested for benzene above
the US water limit.
However, not all drinks with benzoates and vitamin C
contained benzene, and both the FDA and Mike Redman, a
scientist with the American Beverage Association
(ABA), have told BeverageDaily.com that heat is a
The ABA said it was handing out new guidance to help
beverage firms minimise benzene formation in drinks.
However, Glen Lawrence, a scientist who helped the FDA
work out the link between benzene and the
benzoate/vitamin C combination in 1990, said one of
these ingredients should simply be dropped from