Do Soft Drinks Contain Pesticide?


By T.V. Antony Raj


People just fall prey to attractive images carrying false information on Facebook and other social media. They, in turn, copy those images and become accessories to propagating the untruths.


Pesticide in soft drinks?
Pesticide in soft drinks?


For example, in the above image which I came across on Facebook today, the caption in Tamil says:

The amount of pesticides in the soft drinks you consume.

I have my doubts about this post. I don’t think these soft drinks have pesticide in them as depicted in the image.

But some soft drinks do have harmful chemicals that may impair our health.

Within the European Union and Switzerland, substances used as food additives are coded with E numbers. The “E” stands for “Europe”. The E numbers on food labels are common throughout the European Union.

Benzoic acid and sodium benzoate

Benzoic acid and sodium benzoate are widely used as food preservatives, with E numbers E210 and E211 respectively.

Benzoic acid (Source - Wikipedia)
Benzoic acid (Source – Wikipedia)


Benzoic acid (E210) has the chemical Formula C7H6O2 (or C6H5COOH). It is a simple aromatic carboxylic acid. It is a colourless crystalline solid and occurs in nature at low levels in apples, cinnamon, ripe cloves, cranberries, greengage plums, and prunes.


Sodium Benzoate (Source - Wikipedia)
Sodium Benzoate (Source – Wikipedia)

Sodium benzoate (E211) has the chemical formula NaC7H5O2. It is the sodium salt of benzoic acid and exists in this form when dissolved in water.

Most soft drinks have added sodium benzoate in permissible amounts that act as a preservative which are in most cases harmless.

However, it is advisable to drop from your diet all benzoates if you have any health problems, especially if you are suffering from: any Cancer, any autoimmune disease or disorder, skin diseases & disorders like: psoriasis, eczema, seborrheic dermatitis, acne, folliculitis, KP, any Intestinal disorders like Ulcerative Colitis, constipation, Crohns Disease, IBD, IBS, Candida, SIBO, body odour,  Allergies, Asthma, etc.

Acids in soft drinks

All citrus flavoured and grape flavoured soft drinks have organic acids found in nature to provide the characteristic fruity tang. The citrus flavoured soft drinks contain citric acid (E330) and grape flavoured soft drinks have tartaric acid (E334)..

Citric acid (Source - Wikipedia)
Citric acid (Source – Wikipedia)


Tartaric acid (Source - Wikipedia)
Tartaric acid (Source – Wikipedia)
Phosphoric acid

According to many studies, what is harmful is phosphoric acid added to cola drinks.

It is true that Phosphorus-containing substances occur (0.1%-0.5%) in foods such as milk, meat, poultry, fish, nuts, and egg yolks. But phosphoric acid per se is harmful.

Phosphoric acid (Source - Wikipedia)
Phosphoric acid (Source – Wikipedia)


Phosphoric acid is a mineral (inorganic) acid having the chemical formula H3PO4. It is also known as E338, orthophosphoric acid, and phosphoric (V) acid. It is a clear, colourless, odourless liquid with a syrupy consistency.

Food-grade phosphoric acid is a mass-produced chemical. It is available in large quantities at a low price.

Studies on phosphoric acid

Due to the use of phosphoric acid, cola is actually more acidic than lemon juice or vinegar! The vast amount of sugar acts to mask and balance the acidity.

In some epidemiological studies, phosphoric acid, used in many cola drinks has been linked to chronic kidney disease and lower bone density. A study by the Epidemiology Branch of the US National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, concludes that drinking two or more colas per day doubled the risk of chronic kidney disease.

Between 1996 and 2001, a total of 1672 women and 1148 men took part in a study using dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry. To collect dietary information, the study used a food frequency questionnaire with specific questions about the number of servings of cola and other carbonated beverages.  It also differentiated between regular, caffeine-free, and diet drinks.

The results, published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition provide evidence to support the theory that women who consume cola daily have lower bone density. Though the total phosphorus intake was not significantly higher in daily cola consumers than in nonconsumers, the calcium-to-phosphorus ratios were lower.

However, in  1998, a study titled “Increased incidence of fractures in middle-aged and elderly men with low intakes of phosphorus and zinc” published in Osteoporosis international: a journal established as result of cooperation between the European Foundation for Osteoporosis and the National Osteoporosis Foundation of the USA 8 (4): 333–340, suggests that insufficient intake of phosphorus leads to lower bone density. The study does not examine the effect of phosphoric acid, which binds with magnesium and calcium in the digestive tract to form salts that are not absorbed, but rather studies general phosphorus intake.

In 2001, a study by R. P. Heaney and K. Rafferty titled “Carbonated beverages and urinary calcium excretion” published in The American journal of clinical nutrition 74 (3): 343–347 states that using calcium-balance methods they found no impact of carbonated soft drinks containing phosphoric acid on calcium excretion.

The authors conducted their study among 20 to 40-year-old women who drank three or more cups (680 ml) of a carbonated soft drink per day. The effect of various soft drinks (with caffeine and without; with phosphoric acid and with citric acid), water, and milk on the calcium balance was compared in the study.

Heaney and Rafferty found that, relative to water, only milk and the two caffeine-containing soft drinks increased urinary calcium. The calcium loss associated with the consumption of caffeinated soft drinks was about equal to that found previously for caffeine alone. Phosphoric acid without caffeine had no impact on urine calcium and did not increase the loss of urinary calcium related to caffeine.

Because studies have shown that the effect of caffeine is compensated for by reduced calcium losses later in the day, the authors  concluded that the net effect of carbonated beverages—including those with caffeine and phosphoric acid—is negligible, and that the skeletal effects of carbonated soft drink consumption are likely due to dietary milk displacement.

Other chemicals such as caffeine (also a significant component of popular common cola drinks) were also suspected as possible contributors to low bone density, due to the known effect of caffeine on calciuria.

Remove rust with phosphoric acid

By the way, phosphoric acid can be used to remove rust from articles.

The following video shows a person removing rust using Coca-Cola. Many prefer the Diet Coke instead of regular Coke because the former is not sticky like the latter.



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