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Council of Beverages Associations and the American Beverage Association state in their guidelines that the effectiveness of EDTA may be lessened in products forti ed with calcium and other minerals (95, 96). In such cases, calcium could compete with iron or copper for EDTA. Metal ions remaining in solution will be free to initiate formation of the hydroxyl radical, which potentially can react with benzoic acid to form benzene. Caution should be exercised in the interpretation of benzene results reported for beverages and other foods containing benzoate and ascorbic acid. The mere presence of benzoate and ascorbic acid in a product does not mean that benzene will form. Several factors may be interacting to increase or . decrease the formation of benzene, including the presence of OH scavengers, exposure to elevated temperatures and light, the concentrations of benzoate and ascorbic acid, the presence of trace metal ions in the product ingredients, the presence of chelating agents, the amount of oxygen present in the products, changes in pH, the order of added ingredients, and so on. In addition, environmental and/or process-induced contamination may be another potential source of benzene contamination. For example, contamination of a mineral water occurred as a result of an improperly maintained charcoal lter (97). All of these factors could make it dif cult to differentiate between the exact source and associated amount of benzene reported for beverages and other foods.
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With the exception of beverages, efforts to mitigate processed-induced benzene contamination in food have not been necessary. This may be due to the low benzene concentrations generally found in food. Benzene formation from the decomposition of phenylalanine can be minimized by grilling and roasting foods at lower temperatures. Similarly, benzene formation from the decomposition of phenylalanine during food irradiation is controlled by minimizing the dose of ionizing radiation or irradiating meat in a frozen state. The uptake of benzene in grilled fatty foods and the benzene concentration from charcoal and wood emissions can be reduced depending on the choice of fuel. A recent study showed that benzene emissions from ue gases could be reduced by an order of magnitude depending on the composition of the charcoal used during grilling (7). The mitigation of benzene formation in beverages containing benzoate and ascorbic acid has received much attention recently. Both the International Council of Beverages Associations and the American Beverage Association have published guidelines that describe mitigation strategies that can be used by the beverage industry to reformulate affected products (95, 96). According to Equations 4.3.1 through 4.3.4 (see Section 4.3.4), benzene formation in beverages requires four reactants benzoate, ascorbic acid, trace metal ions, and oxygen. In principle, the exclusion of any one of these
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reactants would be an option that could be used to mitigate benzene formation. Due to the ubiquitous nature of oxygen and trace metal ions, a practical approach to benzene mitigation in food and beverages would be the elimination or reduction of benzoate or ascorbic acid. The EU currently permits up to 150 ppm benzoate in beverages, and Canada and the United States currently permit up to 1000 ppm (see Section 4.3.3.3). In the recent survey conducted in Canada, a beverage reformulated without benzoate was analyzed along with two samples of the original formulation that contained benzoate. Concentrations of benzene as high as 19 ppb were found in samples of the original formulation. No benzene was found in the reformulated sample (27). In the 2006 survey conducted in the United States, similar results were reported for beverages reformulated by eliminating or reducing benzoate (43). Alternative antimicrobial methods or agents will need to be considered for products reformulated by eliminating or reducing benzoate. The elimination or reduction of ascorbic acid also can be an effective mitigation strategy. However, ascorbic acid may be naturally occurring in some fruit juices and is often added as a preservative or nutrient. In the 2006 US survey, most of the products with declared benzoate and no added ascorbic acid were found to contain less than 1 ppb benzene. However, the Canadian survey found benzene in amounts as high as 5.6 ppb in some products with declared benzoate and no ascorbic acid. Beverages containing fruit juices with declared benzoate but without declared ascorbic acid could still form benzene from reactions associated with benzoate and naturally occurring ascorbic acid. Another option to control benzene formation may be to avoid the addition of ascorbic acid to foods with naturally occurring benzoate such as cranberries and lingonberries (see Section 4.3.3.3). In addition, diet or light beverages are low in sugars, and sugars are known hydroxyl radical scavengers. Chelating agents such as EDTA may be added to beverages containing benzoate and/or ascorbic acid to reduce the potential for benzene formation; however, EDTA may be less effective in products forti ed with calcium (see Section 4.3.4.3). Another mitigation strategy might be the use of vacuum-sealed packaging to reduce the amount of oxygen in the nished product. Model studies conducted in vitro showed that under anaerobic conditions, benzene formation did not occur as a result of the decarboxylation of benzoate (98). However, there is a lack of data on the activity of oxygen in beverages. Other factors that can reduce exposure to benzene in beverages are minimizing exposure of products to high temperatures and/or UV light during the manufacture, storage, distribution, and shelf life of beverages. The International Council of Beverages Associations and American Beverage Association have developed accelerated testing procedures that manufacturers can use to evaluate beverage formulations under extreme conditions over the product s shelf life (95, 96). The American Beverage Association guidelines recommended heating samples from 40 to 60 C for 24 h or as long as 14 days.
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