Traces of a carcinogenic chemical have been found in soft drinks at eight times the level permitted in drinking water.
Tests on 230 drinks on sale in Britain and France found high levels of the cancer-causing compound benzene, the Food Standards Agency (FSA) said.
The chemical, used to make glues, paints and detergents, and also found in car exhaust fumes, has been linked to leukaemia and other cancers of the blood.
The soft drinks industry has known for 15 years that it can form when ascorbic acid (Vitamin C) combines with the preservative sodium benzoate. Traces found in Perrier water 15 years ago led to the withdrawal of more than 160 million bottles worldwide.
A spokesman for the FSA said the findings - that some brands contained up to eight parts of benzene per billion - did not pose an immediate health risk. "The FSA is continuing to investigate and will be encouraging [the] industry to make levels as low as possible," he said.
Sustain, a food standards pressure group, said the industry should "come clean" on what it knew about Benzene in its products. Richard Watts, a spokesman, said: "The limit in drinking water is one part per billion. Why should this be any different for soft drinks?"Reuse content