Monthly Archives: April 2007

Japan Resources No. 139

Japan Resources No. 139 (pdf)


  • EDC Conference in Seoul, South Korea
  • Demand: To exclude farm products from Japan-Australia FTA negotiations
  • Statement of opposition to the violations against the Japan-U.S. Beef Agreement
  • We request that imports of American beef should be prohibited and demand strict country-of-origin labeling rules
  • Breaking News: CUJ finds benzene in popular soft drinks
  • Appeal Against Patents on Life
  • Report: Attempt to Legitimate GM Contamination Blocked
  • To the participants of the WG Meeting on Low-level Presence of rDNA Plant Material
  • To our readers

CUJ finds benzene in popular soft drinks

On 13 March, 2007 Consumers Union of Japan announced the results of its investigation into 21 popular soft drinks, vitamin drinks, and supplement drinks. 16 of the tested products were contaminated with the cancer-causing chemical benzene.

The source is thought to be common food additives such as benzoic acids (E201, E211, E212 and E213) used as preservatives. It has been known for a long time that benzoic acid can react with ascorbic acid (vitamin C) when it is added as an anti oxidant in soft drinks, forming benzene.

Consumers Union of Japan wants companies to stop selling such products and immediately stop the simultaneous use of the additives. CUJ also wants the Food Safety Commission and the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare to take measures to totally ban the simultaneous use of these additives in soft drinks, supplement drinks, cosmetics, etc.

While no safe levels of benzene have been established for soft drinks, different countries have different standards for water. WHO notes that benzene should be avoided whenever technically feasible, and there is no justification for soft drinks or supplement drinks sold to consumers to contain high levels of benzene. In 2006, Japan’s Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare investigated this problem, and said they found levels of benzene above the level of 10 ?g/kg in two cases, but refused to make the other findings public. Consumers Union of Japan demanded in September 2006 that all the findings of benzene should be made public, but MHLW has refused.

Limits on benzene content in drinking water (µg/kg):

WHO 10

Japan 10

South Korea 10

United States 5

Canada 5

European Union 1

The five products with highest levels of benzene in CUJ’s study (µg/kg):

1) Zetsurin Gold 7.4

2) Sapuriku Alpha 2.7

3) Oishii Kurozu Hachimitsu 1.8

4) Fanta Grape 1.7

5) Collagen C 1.7

(Source: Yoshimura Eiji, Shohisha Report No. 1360/1361 Published March 7, 2007)