Finland's food safety watchdog has called for the removal of some soft drinks from the country's stores after finding high levels of benzene in the products.

The National Food Agency said it had found levels in certain products were above WHO-recommended limits for benzene in drinking water. The agency declined to name the brands affected but said brands owned by five Finnish soft drinks producers - as well as Coca-Cola and PepsiCo products - had been tested.

Most of the more than 40 products tested contained benzene levels below the EU maximum for drinking water but there were "a few exceptions", the agency said.

It added: "The National Food Agency recommends that products with a benzene level in excess of the 10 micrograms a litre defined by WHO as the maximum limit for drinking water are withdrawn from the market."

The level of benzene in soft drinks has caught public attention in recent weeks with products removed from shelves in the UK and lawsuits launched against manufacturers in the US following tests.

Watchdogs in the UK and the US have both played down the threat to public health but the EU has demanded reports from member states on the risks posed to consumers from benzene contamination.

Benzene naturally occurs in soft drinks following the reaction of sodium benzoate and ascorbic acid.

A maximum limit for benzene content has only been defined for drinking water. The limit specified by the WHO is 10mg per litre, while the US Food and Drug Administration has set the limit to 5mg a litre. The EU has a tighter limit, setting the maximum for benzene content to 1mg a litre. No maximum benzene content has been defined for soft drinks or other foodstuffs.