WASHINGTON — The entire American stock of Perrier mineral water, a bubbly beverage drawn from a spring in France, is being recalled after benzene was found in some samples.
Ronald V. Davis, president of Perrier Group of America Inc., said experts have advised that short-term consumption "poses no significant health risks to the general population."
However, he said in a statement issued Friday night: "We're trying to act aggressively and responsibly in the interests of the public."
A spokesman for the Food and Drug Administration said that tests conducted Friday by the agency showed benzene levels of two and three times the Environmental Protection Agency standards for drinking water.
Benzene is a chemical that at high enough dosages has been linked to cancer in animals, FDA spokesman Bill Grigg said.
He said an FDA health hazard evaluation board determined that "there was no immediate risk." However, he said the board determined that many years of drinking excess benzene could increase the rate of cancer by 1 in a million.
"It's what we call a negligible risk," he said.
Perrier Group spokeswoman Jane Lazgin said that the recall involved the entire United States supply because "we just thought it the prudent thing to do."
The cause of the contamination could not be learned immediately. Perrier officials said the search was focusing on the packaging and distribution process.
They said the natural underground mineral spring in Vergeze, France, from which the water comes, has been certified free of contamination by the French government.
Bottled in France by a Paris-based company, Perrier in the United States has become a symbol of the so-called yuppie life style.
The sales for 1986--the most recent year for which figures were available--were reported at 250 million bottles, with consumption rising on the heels of the introduction of fruit-flavored Perrier.