Coca-Cola Settles Benzene Lawsuits
Kansas City Star
May 14, 2007

Coca-Cola Co. settled three lawsuits by consumers who said pineapple-flavored Fanta and Vault Zero sodas contained cancer-causing benzene if exposed to heat.

Coca-Cola paid $500 each to an unspecified number of plaintiffs in New Jersey, Florida and Kansas. It also agreed to refund or replace Fanta Pineapple and Vault Zero drinks purchased before September 2006, when the beverages were reformulated to minimize benzene formation, court documents show.

Benzene, which has been linked to leukemia, can form when preservatives called benzoates combine with citric acid or ascorbic acid at high temperatures. Attorneys for the plaintiffs have similar lawsuits pending against other companies, including PepsiCo Inc., Sunny Delight Beverages Co., Publix Super Markets Inc. and Shasta Beverages Co.

Coca-Cola's Fanta Pineapple had 4.7 times as much benzene as is allowed in drinking water, the lawsuit said. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's limit for benzene is 5 parts per billion in drinking water.

Coca-Cola spokesman Ray Crockett said the drinks tested by the plaintiffs' laboratories were "heat abused."

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