Whole Foods Yanks Skinnygirl Margarita, Citing Toxic Ingredient

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Gilbert Carrasquillo / FilmMagic

Bethenny Frankel promotes Skinnygirl Margarita in July 2010 in Philadelphia.

The guilt-free cocktail line contains “as few ingredients as possible.” But could one of them actually be cancer-causing?

It’s a risk Whole Foods isn’t willing to take. The health-food market has pulled Bethenny Frankel’s line of pre-mixed margarita from its shelves.

The drink includes traces of sodium benzoate, a preservative that has the potential to take on a carcinogenic form when mixed with certain acids. Take, for example, ascorbic acid – more commonly known as Vitamin C – mix in some lemon or lime to your Skinnygirl and you could form the toxic compound.

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Sodium benzoate is added to many foods as a preservative and is not thought to be overly dangerous, but it’s a connection the organic grocery chain wishes to avoid. In a statement to Access Hollywood, Whole Foods said, “After discovering that it contains a preservative that does not meet our quality standards, we have had to stop selling it.”

Bethenny Frankel, who rocketed to fame while starring on the first season of The Real Housewives of New York City and launched her line of Skinnygirl drinks in 2009, seemed apathetic about Whole Foods’ move. Frankel defended her use of the trace amounts of the preservative, saying, “I’m not making wheatgrass here. If I could put an agave plant and some limes on a shelf I would. [The Skinnygirl Margarita] is as close to nature as possible, while still being a shelf stable product.”

The bottle lists no ingredients but does claim that it’s “all natural.” Indeed the addition of a preservative, no matter how “trace,” would debunk that claim. Cancer-causing or not, it turns out the “all-natural” cocktail simply isn’t.

Nick Carbone is a reporter at TIME. Find him on Twitter at @nickcarbone. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.

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