CO-OPERATIVE Retail Trading Group has acted quickly to withdraw all one-litre batches of Co-op Low Calorie Bitter Lemon after a survey by the Food Standards Agency said the product contained significant traces of the chemical, benzene.
According to the FSA, the survey of 150 soft drinks on sale in the UK showed that four products contained benzene levels above the World Health Organisation guidelines for drinking water and called on retaliers to withdraw the drinks from stores.
A spokeswoman for CRTG told www.thenews.coop: "In response to the FSA's finding, we have withdrawn this product and we are working with our suppliers to establish the cause and to remove or reduce the potential for this reaction.
"Whilst of concern, the level found in the product represents a small part of total human exposure to benzene. For example – it is also present in air and people breathe in around 220 micrograms every day.
"Customers wanting further information or advice are asked to ring our Customer Careline on 0800 0686727."
Dr Andrew Wadge, Director of Food Safety at the FSA, said: 'We did this survey to get a clearer picture of whether benzene was present in any soft drinks on sale in the UK and at what levels.
'We found that levels in the vast majority of products tested were low and not a cause for concern. However, we are concerned about the levels in four drinks and have asked their manufacturers to remove the affected batches from sale.
"These results show that it is technologically possible to produce soft drinks without detectable traces of benzene. This is what we want all manufacturers to do."
*For further information, please visit www.food.gov.uk/news