Coca-Cola have announced they are phasing out the use of sodium benzoate food additive in the UK after studies have linked the chemical to health problems.
The chemical has already been removed from batches of Diet Coke as of January and the full process will be completed by the end of 2008. Coca-Cola are also planning to remove the additive from its other soft drinks although an effective replacement for their fruit-juice containing products such as Fanta and Dr.Pepper has yet to found.
Sodium benzoate is used as a preservative to prevent mold growing in the drink. Known as E211, it occurs naturally in fruits such as apples and cranberries. However, the drinks industry use higher concentrations than are found in nature.
In combination with vitamin C that naturally occurs in many soft drinks, or when it is added as a preservative, sodium benzoate can react to form carcinogenic chemical benzene. Sodium benzoate has also been found to cause damage to DNA and increases the risk of developing Parkinson's disease and cirrhosis of the liver.
The chemical has also hit the headlines after being implicated with hyperactivity in children after a study carried out by Southampton University. Other chemicals that were implicated were all food colourings and the British Food Standards Agency called for them to be banned but did not do the same for sodium benzoate.
Coca-Cola have said their decision is based on consumer demand for natural ingredients and not due to the health effects of the additive.
"We are continuously looking at emerging trends and listening to our consumers thoughts about ingredients," a Coca-Cola spokesperson said.