Publix Settles Benzene Suit

LAKELAND, Fla. -- Publix Super Markets, Inc. here, along with consumer attorney Andrew Rainer and Northeastern University Professor Tim Howard, said yesterday that the chain has settled in the case of a Florida consumer concerned about the potential formulation of benzene in cans of Publix Diet Lemon Lime soft drinks.

The lawsuit alleged that two ingredients of the soft drinks, ascorbic acid (vitamin C) and potassium benzoate (a preservative), when combined and exposed to heat over a period of time may form a small amount of benzene, measured in single digits of parts per billion.

According to Publix, while the FDA and other food safety authorities have reiterated that there is no known health risk to consumers from the benzene levels found in soft drinks, Publix and Cott Beverages (private label supplier of Publix brand soft drinks), upon notification of the suit, conducted independent testing of the soft drink flavor.

The retailer said that "to prevent the development of any possible benzene development, the formula for Publix Diet Lemon Lime soda has been changed.

"Out of an abundance of caution and continued customer confidence in our brand, we engaged our supplier, the experts in soda manufacturing, to reformulate our Diet Lemon Lime variety to prevent the possible formulation of benzene under hot conditions over extended periods of time," said Maria Brous, Publix's director of media and community relations. "Cans of Publix Diet Lemon Lime soda with a use by date of July 03, 2008 (designated on the bottom of the can as 07/03/08) or later, have been reformulated."

Publix said customers who have purchased the product with a use by date before July 03, 2008, may return it to their store within the next 90 days for a full refund or replacement or, if the customer no longer has product purchased since Oct. 1, 2006, may receive a refund or replacement upon proof of purchase in the form of a receipt of purchase.
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