One of the dirty secrets of the soft drink and processed food industries is sodium benzoate. It is a benzene compound that is produced by mixing benzoic acid with sodium hydroxide. It is a common preservative. It has been associated with a vast array of health problems, including all of our major epidemics. Sodium benzoate is considerably more toxic than either processed sugar or high fructose corn syrup, yet it gets very little media coverage. It is a bona fide poison. Outside of our foods, benzene is the main ingredient of Liquid Wrench, various paint stripper products, rubber cements, and spot removers, due to its highly destructive and solvent qualities. It was discontinued in rubber manufacture in the U.S. because it caused a large percentage of the workers to get leukemia.
Countries throughout Europe have been pressuring the food industry to voluntarily remove sodium benzoate from products, before more aggressive action is taken. Several European media outlets have called for an absolute ban on this toxic preservative, due to concerns about children's developmental safety. The U.S. Government and media have remained disturbingly silent. As usual, there have been no studies in the U.S. about the chemical's effects upon children, but it is studied elsewhere. The chemical industry in the United States is well protected, and studying sodium benzoate's effects upon children in the United States would be career suicide for any researcher, as has happened with many researchers of fluoride. Meanwhile, thousands of children are dying of leukemia.
Like many other food industry chemicals, it was originally found in an organic form. Trace amounts of the organic form can be found in blueberries, apples, cranberries, plums, and cinnamon. However, sodium benzoate has no known negative effects in its organic form. Only the synthetic version has toxic effects. Perhaps the organic form occurs with its own biological neutralizers, as is frequently the case with organically-occurring food toxins; or the organic form is somehow different from the sodium benzoate that is made in chemical laboratories. The natural version does not have any preservative action, because it has no toxicity. It is only when sodium benzoate is produced inside a chemical laboratory that the result is a cheap, toxic agent that destroys living organisms.
There are many chemical additives that present health hazards, but sodium benzoate is especially dangerous because it is able to destroy parts of the DNA. This means that the sodium benzoate consumed today may still be causing problems in future generations. Sodium benzoate is known to specifically attack the mitochondria of DNA. The mitochondria use oxygen to produce energy. They also control the cell life cycle and cell growth. Whenever there is a change in the DNA or overall genetic structure, the effects on the organism are unpredictably random. Sodium benzoate's DNA damage has already been linked with Parkinson's disease, liver problems, and these just scratch the surface of the possibilities.
Our confused medical establishment increasingly labels new diseases as spontaneous and genetic in origin, while ignoring that poisons like sodium benzoate are known to cause genetic mutations. The link to genetic mutations explains why benzene is so incredibly carcinogenic, and it likewise explains why radiation is so carcinogenic; for radiation exposure induces the formation of benzene compounds inside proteins.
"Once again, the FDA has sided with big food companies and misled consumers about the problem of benzene in beverages, withholding data and issuing public reassurances that are contradicted by their own test results."
-- Richard Wiles, Environmental Working Group
Whenever sodium benzoate is exposed to vitamin C, it forms pure benzene. It is astounding that our chemical industry found a method through which they could make vitamin C dangerous. Virtually all soft drinks currently have added vitamin C in the form of ascorbic acid, as if that would make the drinks healthy. This leads to the inevitable creation of dangerous benzene. Its inclusion causes a decrease of red blood cells, a severe depression of the immune system to produce generalized allergy symptoms, leukemia, various other blood cancers, and pre-cancerous blood conditions.
The amount of benzene in soft drinks is not even known. Benzene content increases in correlation with shelf-life, heat, and light exposure. A study of diet Orange Crush by Cadbury's in 1990 revealed that benzene levels "off the shelf" were 25 P.P.B. (parts per billion) and it rose to 82 P.P.B. after exposure to heat and light. U.S. federal safety rules limit benzene levels in drinking water to 5 P.P.B.; but regulators made a special exception for soft drinks, which made the manufacturers immune from this safety regulation. Some soft drinks tested to have well over 100 P.P.B. of benzene at the point of purchase -- 20 times greater than the maximum safe level for human consumption. By the safety standards set for drinking water, a six-pack of Mountain Dew could develop 120 times the safe level of benzene. Is that Mountain Dew really worth the risk of having a leg-less grandchild, or one having low intelligence?
The clear connections between benzene formation, sodium benzoate, and vitamin C were discovered in the early 1990's. The findings were ignored in the United States, and debate about them has been avoided by the soft drink industry. Sodium benzoate is one of the most dangerous preservatives available, but it is the cheapest. Coca-Cola confirmed that alternatives exist when they reformulated Diet Coke in the U.K., following public outrage about sodium benzoate. Despite being knowledgeable of the risks involved, public pressure on soft drink manufacturers is not yet great enough for them to reformulate in the United States. Corporations which seek to profit through immoral actions are nothing new, but far more sickening is the way in which the Food and Drug Administration has ignored the dangers of benzene in soft drinks, and it has even worked to hide the studies from the public, according to the Environmental Working Group.
Researchers at Southampton University noted that tests have shown sodium benzoate to lower the I.Q. by up to five points in children. Britain's Food Standards Agency has even warned parents that sodium benzoate is a primary cause of hyperactivity in children, alongside artificial colorings.
"Sodium benzoate is the most effective preservative currently authorized."
-- Richard Laming, British Soft Drinks Association
A preservative is a chemical suitable for killing bacteria, fungi, and anything else that could otherwise live inside a product. Preservatives do not keep foods "fresh" as marketers contend. They are instead toxic enough to ensure that nothing in a food item can survive. Therefore, if sodium benzoate is the most effective preservative currently authorized, it must also be the most poisonous one.
There have been truly natural preservatives available for decades, which include grape seed extract, pine bark extract, stevia, colloidal silver, organic nitrates from celery, and raw honey. There are also the older techniques of using vinegar, salt, and smoking; which actually improve flavor. With the possible exception of salt, none of these pose any risk to health, but they are more expensive. The natural alternatives do not sponsor the chemical industry, which funds the U.S. Food and Drug Administration; whose approval is necessary for American food distribution. Thus, companies are strongly encouraged not to use any natural preservatives -- that is, if they wish to stay in business. The situation produces a double whammy for the public, because the petrochemical industry first profits by creating toxic chemicals for foods, and then it profits by selling the drugs to treat the resultant diseases.
Expert links additive to cell damage, Independent
Sodium benzoate removed from Diet Coke, Food Navigator
FDA Data Undercut Public Safety Assurances by Top Agency Official, Environmental Working Group