One children's soft drink is likely to be discontinued as industry and scientific experts work to reduce the cancer-causing chemical benzene in similar products after a highly publicised recall.
The British Soft Drinks Association (BSDA) stepped up its investigations into the compound after four drinks were found to contain benzene above World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines of a maximum 10ppb.
The Co-operative Group's own-brand low-calorie bitter lemon, Silver Spring Mineral Water's Popstar lemon and lime drink, Morrison's no-added-sugar pineapple and grapefruit crush and Aldi's Hyberry high-juice no-added-sugar blackcurrant squash were all removed from sale following a survey by the Food Standards Agency (FSA) in March.
The BSDA's Richard Laming claimed manufacturers had kept on top of the issue since benzene was first identified in drinks more than 10 years ago, but the industry had responded to a request from the FSA to look again at benzene levels and the sharing of best practice. He added: "If there are ways to make levels even lower, we will obviously do that."
The Co-op confirmed that it is now working with suppliers to reformulate its own-brand bitter lemon, while Silver Spring md Jim Ludlow said the Popstar range would "probably be discontinued following all the bad publicity"
He added: "It's all a bit of hysteria really - benzene is found in much higher levels naturally in foods like eggs, bananas and smoked fish - but it's something we have to respond to."
Benzene is thought to occur in soft drinks when the preservative sodium benzoate and ascorbic acid (Vitamin C) react.
The FSA said two-thirds of the 150 drinks it surveyed had no detectable traces of benzene, proving that it was technically possible to achieve. "This is what we want manufacturers to do," said the FSA.