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which may suggest possible environmental contamination during harvesting, transportation, and/or storage of the beans. Some foods treated with high doses of ionizing radiation can form low amounts of benzene. In the United States and many other countries, the amount of ionizing radiation (dose) approved for use depends on the type of food and the desired technical effect (57, 58). Low doses (1 kGy or less) are used to control insects and parasites in fresh fruits and vegetables and to delay ripening and sprouting. Medium doses (1 to 10 kGy) are used to reduce pathogenic microorganisms and extend the shelf life of foods such as meat and poultry products. High doses (greater than 10 kGy) are used to disinfect or sterilize food. For example, doses greater than 10 kGy are used to sterilize meat products for the NASA space ight program. In the United States, the dosage of ionizing radiation used to treat food typically ranges from 0.15 kGy for the treatment of fresh fruits and vegetables to 7 kGy for frozen meat and up to 30 kGy for spices and seasoning (57, 59). Chemical analysis of irradiated foods has shown that most of the radiolytic by-products are identical to byproducts identi ed in foods treated by traditional food processing (58). Studies have shown that meat products treated with very high doses of ionizing radiation can form low amounts of benzene from the degradation of phenylalanine. In an experiment, 19 ppb benzene formed in a beef sample irradiated with 56 kGy (8, 60), which is about 10 times higher than permitted under current regulations. A linear extrapolation to a dose approved for frozen meat might be expected to form approximately 3 ppb, which is equivalent to the amount of benzene found in the cooked control samples (2 to 3 ppb). No benzene was found in the nonirradiated control. It is important to point out that the dose of ionizing radiation used in this experiment (56 kGy) likely produced undesirable changes in appearance, avor, and aroma that would be unacceptable to consumers (61). Solvent extraction of vegetable oils with hexane or other organic solvents can introduce benzene into the oil. In India, relatively high concentrations of benzene were found in re ned and unre ned soy oil, i.e., 3.1 and 32 ppm, respectively (62). Trace amounts of benzene and toluene reported in Italian Parma ham were probably of environmental origin as the ratio of these contaminants was similar to that found in gasoline, i.e., three to one (63). 4.3.3.3 Foods Containing Benzoate and Ascorbic Acid
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In the early 1990s, it was found that benzene could form in certain beverages containing potassium or sodium benzoate and ascorbic acid (vitamin C). Ascorbic acid might be either naturally occurring in fruit juice or added as a preservative or nutrient. Benzoate is used as an antimicrobial agent and is particularly effective at the low pH levels found in many beverages. Limited data on erythorbic acid (the isomer of vitamin C) in beverages also show that it can form benzene (43). Studies conducted with aqueous solutions of benzoate and ascorbic acid showed that benzene formed at approximately
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300 ppb when the test solutions were exposed to exaggerated conditions of heat and UV light in the absence of competing reactions (see Section 4.3.4) (11). The FDA and the beverage industry also found benzene in a few commercial beverages containing benzoate and ascorbic acid. The amount found in these beverages exceeded the EPA maximum contaminant level (MCL) of 5 ppb benzene in drinking water. In response to these ndings, the beverage industry reformulated affected products to eliminate or minimize benzene formation. Benzoic acid occurs naturally in many fruits (46, 64). In cranberries and lingonberries, concentrations of 480 ppm (65) and 600 1300 ppm (66) have been reported. In cranberries, most of the acid is in the form of esters or glycosides; while in lingonberries, the acid is unbound. Benzoic acid also was found in other foods (67), most notably in cinnamon at concentrations ranging from 131 to 461 ppm (68). In addition to beverages, benzoate is used as an antimicrobial in other foods such as jams and jellies (69). The Canadian maximum permitted concentration for benzoate in beverages is 1000 ppm (70). The European Union (EU) established a 150 ppm maximum concentration for benzoate in beverages (71). In the United States, benzoate may be used in food in amounts not to exceed current good manufacturing practice (1000 ppm) (72). In a 2003 survey of benzoic acid in Korean beverages, the highest concentration found was 470 ppm (73). In the 1990s, several surveys were conducted to investigate the amount of benzene found in beverages and other foods containing added or naturally occurring benzoate. In a survey conducted in Canada, 74 samples of fresh expressed fruit juices, fruit drinks, and carbonated beverages were analyzed (10). None of the samples were found to contain benzene above the Canadian maximum acceptable concentration (MAC) of 5 ppb in drinking water. The highest amount of benzene found was 3.8 ppb in a carbonated beverage with declared benzoates. Benzene concentrations in carbonated beverages with declared benzoate (six samples) and without declared benzoate (20 samples) ranged from 0.01 to 3.8 ppb and 0.03 to 0.12 ppb, respectively. Retail fruit juices with declared benzoate (10 samples) and without declared benzoate (13 samples) were found to contain benzene concentrations that ranged from 0.14 to 1.5 ppb and 0.02 to 0.24 ppb, respectively. Fruit drinks with declared benzoate (seven samples) were found to contain benzene concentrations that ranged from 0.05 to 0.28 ppb. Three cranberry juice samples without declared benzoates were found to contain benzene in amounts that ranged from 0.46 to 1.8 ppb. The cranberry juices likely contained naturally occurring benzoic acid. In a survey conducted in the United States, more than 50 foods and beverages were analyzed (11). The foods and beverages were selected on the basis of previous reports of naturally occurring benzene or because the products contained naturally occurring or added benzoate and ascorbic acid. Most of the 26 beverages analyzed were found to contain less than 1 ppb benzene. Benzene concentrations as high as 3 ppb were found in two diet carbonated
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