Toxin row grows over soft drinks

Toxin row grows over soft drinks

The British Soft Drinks Association has defended the safety of fruit juices and cordials after a study found that some drinks may be contaminated with a potentially harmful toxin.

Juice and juice drinks are safe for both adults and children, insisted the British Soft Drinks Association (BSDA) yesterday (1 March).

The trade body was forced to react to research published by the Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC), which said that a toxin, called antimony, was discovered in 16 popular brands of juice and squash.

The toxin was present in concentrations up to 17 times higher than levels found in previous studies.

Scientists said that the increase may be due to antimony either being leached from the packaging material or introduced during manufacturing.

In small doses, antimony causes headaches, dizziness and depression. But, it is listed as a harmful toxin in both Europe and the US and in large doses can cause more serious health problems.

The study, published in the Journal of Environmental Monitoring, focused on 42 juice drinks from 16 different brands and found antimony concentrations above EU limits for drinking water in eight products.

The resarchers called for more research.

"The antimony concentrations in the products tested exceed the antimony limit in EU drinking water but no antimony limits exist for foodstuffs so no legislation has been broken", said Claus Hansen of the University of Copenhagen, Denmark. "However, we cannot be sure that the antimony levels found are harmless."

In answer to the study, the BSDA said: “There is no read across between the levels of antimony permitted in drinking water and those that might be acceptable in a fruit juice or a juice drink.  It is not uncommon that different product types should have different regulatory requirements.

"The packaging is safe. The data in the study does not confirm any conclusions about the packaging: the authors themselves conclude that “further studies are warranted".

“All ingredients and packaging are carefully regulated to make sure that soft drinks are safe to drink.  People can continue to enjoy soft drinks, but, like all food and drink, they should be consumed as part of a balanced diet and active lifestyle,” the association said.