The carcinogenic aromatic hydrocarbon benzene has recently been detected in drinks with added cherry flavour, and it was suggested that benzene could be formed from benzaldehyde used as flavouring. To get a deeper insight into parameters favouring benzene formation, the influence of light, pH, oxygen, temperature as well as presence of transition metal ions was studied in model solutions of benzaldehyde. It was found that in particular irradiation with light increased benzene formation. However, this was not observed in a cherry juice most probably due to absorption of light by the red colour. Therefore, the benzene detected in commercial cherry juices may have been added as contaminant of the benzaldehyde used in the flavouring. The assumption was confirmed by the analysis of commercial flavourings. Thus, to avoid benzene formation in flavourings, amber glass vials must be used during production, storage and sale.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Subscribe to journal
Immediate online access to all issues from 2019. Subscription will auto renew annually.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Becalski A, Nyman P (2009) Benzene. In: Stadler RH, Lineback DR (eds) Process-induced food toxicants: Occurrence, formation, mitigation, and health risks, 1st edn. Wiley, New Jersey
Hartmann F (2007) Benzol in Erfrischungsgetränken. In: Bundesamt für Verbraucherschutz und Lebensmittelsicherheit (eds) Berichte zur Lebensmittelsicherheit 2007. Birkhäuser Verlag, Basel (in German)
Gardner LK, Lawrence GD (1993) Benzene production from decarboxylation of benzoic acid in the presence of ascorbic acid and a transition-metal catalyst. J Agric Food Chem 41:693–695
Nyman PJ, Wamer WG, Begley TH, Diachenko GW, Perfetti GA (2010) Evaluation of accelerated UV and thermal testing for benzene formation in beverages containing benzoate and ascorbic acid. J Food Sci 75:263–267
Vinci RM, Meulenaer BD, Andjelkovic M, Canfyn M, Overmeire IV, Loco JV (2011) Factors influencing benzene formation from the decarboxylation of benzoate in liquid models systems. J Agric Food Chem 59:12975–12981
Casado FJ, Sánchez AH, Castro AD, Rejano L, Beato VM, Montaño A (2011) Fermented vegetables containing benzoic and ascorbic acids as additives: Benzene formation during storage and impact of additives on quality parameters. J Agric Food Chem 59:2403–2409
Aprea E, Biasioli F, Carlin S, Märk TD, Gasperi F (2008) Monitoring benzene formation from benzoate in model systems by proton transfer reaction-mass spectrometry. Int J Mass Spectrom 275:117–121
Lachenmeier DW, Steinbrenner N, Löbell-Behrends S, Reusch H, Kuballa T (2010) Benzene contamination in heat-treated carrot products including baby foods. Open Toxicol J 4:39–42
Lachenmeier DW, Kuballa T, Reusch H, Sproll C, Kersting M, Alexy U (2010) Benzene in infant carrot juice: further insight into formation mechanism and risk assessment including consumption data from the DONALD study. Food Chem Toxicol 48:291–297
Steinbrenner N, Löbell-Behrends S, Reusch H, Kuballa T, Lachenmeier DW (2010) Benzol in Lebensmitteln—ein Überblick. J Verbr Lebensm 5:443–452
Stiftung Warentest (2013) Wasser mit Geschmack: Krebserzeugendes Benzol gefunden
Stiftung Warentest (2013) Aromatisierte Getränke mit Kirschgeschmack: Kritisches Kirscharoma
TrinkwV (2018) Verordnung über die Qualität von Wasser für den menschlichen Gebrauch
McNeal TP, Nyman PJ, Diachenko GW, Hollifield HC (1993) Survey of benzene in foods by using headspace concentration techniques and capillary gas chromatography. J AOAC Int 76:1213–1219
Loch C, Reusch H, Ruge I, Godelmann R, Pflaum T, Kuballa T, Schumacher S, Lachenmeier DW (2016) Benzaldehyde in cherry flavour as a precursor of benzene formation in beverages. Food Chem 206:74–77
Frank S, Hofmann T, Schieberle P (2019) Quantitation of benzene in flavourings and liquid foods containing added cherry-type flavour by a careful work-up procedure followed by a stable isotope dilution assay. Eur Food Res Technol 245:1605–1610
Pankow JF, Kim K, McWhirter KJ, Luo W, Escobedo JO, Strongin RM, Duell AK, Peyton DH (2017) Benzene formation in electronic cigarettes. PLoS ONE. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0173055
Han J, Lin K, Sequeira C, Borchers CH (2015) An isotope-labeled chemical derivatization method for the quantitation of short-chain fatty acids in human feces by liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry. Anal Chim Acta 854:86–94
Hofstetter CK, Dunkel A, Hofmann T (2019) Unified flavor quantitation: Toward high-throughput analysis of key food odorants and tastants by means of ultra-high-performance liquid chromatography tandem mass spectrometry. J Agric Food Chem 67:8599–8608
Anumolu PD, Krishna VL, Rajesh CH, Alekya V, Priyanka B, Sunitha G (2016) Gas chromatographic assessment of residual solvents present in excipient-benzyl alcohol. J Chromatogr Sep Tech 7:321
International Council of Beverages Associations (2006) Leitlinien für die Verringerung des Potentials der Benzolbildung in Getränken
The authors thank L. Romanski, I. Otte, K. Booz, and S. Kaviani-Nejad for technical assistance and S. Bijewitz for drawing the figures.
This research project was supported by the German Ministry of Economics and Energy (via AiF) and the FEI (Forschungskreis der Ernährungsindustrie e.V., Bonn). Project AiF 18813 N.
Conflict of interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
Compliance with ethics requirements
This article does not contain any studies with human or animal subjects.
Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.
About this article
Cite this article
Frank, S., Dunkel, A. & Schieberle, P. Model studies on benzene formation from benzaldehyde. Eur Food Res Technol 246, 901–908 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00217-020-03455-6
- Food flavouring
- Cherry beverage