JURUPA VALLEY (CBSLA.com) — Authorities on Saturday said food preservative sodium benzoate was the likely cause of three dozen employees becoming sickened and overwhelmed at a Jurupa Valley trucking business.
Firefighters were dispatched to Swift Transportation in the 11800 block of Mission Boulevard about 7:45 p.m. Friday, to respond to a report of employees being “overcome by an odor of unknown substance in a trailer,” county fire department spokeswoman Melody Hendrickson said.
Initially, there were 29 employees taken to hospitals, Hendrickson said.
Another six employees reported feeling sick several hours later bringing the total taken to hospitals to 35.
Forty firefighters from 10 engine companies, along with a hazardous materials team, responded to the scene, Hendrickson said.
The preservative made headlines in 2011 when bottles of Bethenny Frankel’s Skinnygirl Margaritas were pulled from Whole Food shelves because the company didn’t consider the product “all-natural” as advertised.
In a LA Times article following the controversy, the newspaper asked “is sodium benzoate safe”?
The Times reported, “The chemical is a preservative commonly found in foods most people consume daily, usually beverages such as sodas and juice drinks that are acidic. It’s also found in items such as pickles, salsa and dip, and can turn up in cosmetics and medicines. Sodium benzoate is produced by a reaction of benzoic acid with sodium hydroxide, which makes it dissolve in water.”
A “safe” as it is deemed, a food professor from Rutgers said it was still actively being studied and the Times added, “it doesn’t mean it’s OK to take a bath in the stuff.”
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