The sexiest gastronomists on the web over at Accidental Hedonist have an excellent post up putting the entire benzene in soda scare in perspective.
First and foremost, don’t panic. Many sodas are apparently having no problems whatsoever. Also, a sense of perspective is necessary. The 5 parts per billion limitation of benzene for our drinking water has to take into account the fact that we not only drink water, but we use it to cook, wash our clothes, and bathe. Soda, hopefully, is less pervasive in our lives.
Read the label of any soda you wish to purchase. Avoid or limit the consumption of products that contain both ascorbic acid and sodium benzoate.
Finally, hold the soda companies accountable. If companies look to spin the issue or provide less than straightforward information surrounding this issue, look for alternatives to their products.
In other words, practice responsible consumerism. Educate yourself, be informed about the risks, be aware that there’s just as much of a tendency for special interest groups to overblow issues as there is a tendency for companies to lie about or shrug off the problem. Don’t get political. Ultimately, keep in mind that the real concern is probably not that benzene in sodas is going to give you cancer — it most likely isn’t, unless you douche with a bottle of Hawaiian Punch every morning. The issue is the accountability of the soda companies, pressuring them to fix their mistake and comply with safety standards.
The FDA, Soft Drinks, and Benzene [Accidental Hedonist]