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Soft Drink Additive Could Cause Cell Damage

e to this DNA - Parkinson's and quite a lot of neuro-degenerative diseases, but above all the whole process of ageing."

But drinks manufacturers argue that sodium benzoate has been approved for use by regulators. A spokesman for Britvic, which makes Pepsi Max in the UK, said: "Obviously, like other soft-drinks manufacturers, we will only use additives that are thoroughly tested and approved for use in this country by both the FSA and the EU."

Coke contains no sodium benzoate, but it is found in many of Coca-Cola's other brands such as Oasis, Dr Pepper and Sprite. A spokesman for Coca-Cola said: "We use preservatives in some of our products - particularly those that include fruit - to ensure that they remain unspoiled throughout their shelf life, whether people are able to store them in a fridge or not.

"All our ingredients have been approved as safe by the food regulatory authorities in Britain and the EU and that is where we take our guidance from." The British Soft Drinks Association described the safety of additives as "an area" for the Food Standards Agency. The FSA said additives had been approved by the European Commission. "Sodium benzoate and benzoic acid are approved for food use," the FSA said in a statement. "Food additives are only permitted for use after a long and careful process of evaluation. This includes rigorous assessments for safety, undertaken by independent scientific committees."

Nonetheless, manufacturers and retailers have begun to remove additives from food and drinks. Sainsbury's will have removed almost all artificial colourings, flavourings and benzoate preservatives by the end of June. Marks & Spencer will phase out additives by the end of this year. And Asda will do the same for its own-brand products by the end of 2007.

Despite maintaining that there is no safety risk, the soft-drinks manufacturers are also responding to public and especially parental concern. Brit
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