Cancer-causing benzene has been found in amounts in excess of an international standard in a soft drink sold by cosmetics retailer DHC Corp., the health ministry said Friday.

The Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare asked the Tokyo-based company to voluntarily recall its Aloevera drink after three samples of the 720-ml drink were found to contain 73.6 ppb (parts per billion) of benzene — well above 10 ppb, the standard set by the World Health Organization for a soft drink.

But the ministry said the amounts detected are not harmful to humans, saying people breathe in far more than that every day.

Scientists in the United States and Europe have reported since March that benzene could be generated from the chemical reaction of two additives used in soft drinks — benzoate and ascorbic acid.

Following the report, the ministry has checked 31 soft drinks that contain the additives, including the beverage sold by DHC.

The amount of benzene detected in the 30 other beverages was less than the WHO standard, the ministry said.

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