At Last! FDA Bans Use of 7 Synthetic Food Additives

At Last! FDA Bans Use of 7 Synthetic Food Additives
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The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has banned the use of 7 synthetic food additives used to mimic natural flavors like mint and cinnamon. [1]

You’ve probably never heard of benzophenone, ethyl acrylate, methyl eugenol, myrcene, pulegone, or pyridine, because food manufacturers are permitted to label them as “artificial flavors.”

But none of these additives will ever be used in food products again, though the FDA is giving manufacturers time to remove them from the food supply.

The move follows a petition brought by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), the Center for Food Safety (CFS), the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), and other environmental and consumer groups.

Erik Olson of NRDC called the decision “a win for consumers,” saying the group’s petition “laid out the science” linking the additives to cancer.

“The law is very clear that any chemical that causes cancer is not supposed to be added to our food supply.”

In a statement on the petition, the FDA said it had concluded that the chemicals were safe for consumers, but not for animals.

“The synthetic flavoring substances that are the subject of this petition are typically used in foods available in the U.S. marketplace in very small amounts and their use results in very low levels of exposures and low risk.

While the FDA’s recent exposure assessment of these substances does not indicate that they pose a risk to public health under the conditions of their intended use, the petitioners provided evidence that these substances caused cancer in animals who were exposed to much higher doses.”

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ National Toxicology Program tested the additives and found they caused cancer in 2 species of lab animals, the FDA said. [2]

Under the Food, Drugs, and Cosmetic Act of 1938, any substance that is found to cause cancer in humans or animals cannot be used as a food additive. [1]

Six of the substances will be removed from the agency’s food additives list based on the NRDC’s evidence that they are carcinogenic to animals, the FDA said. The 7th substance, styrene, will be removed simply because it is no longer used by the food industry.

According to the NRDC, the de-listed additives are found in a wide swath of foods, including ice cream, baked goods, beer, gum, and more. But Olson said it is impossible to know how ubiquitous the substances actually are because manufacturers are not legally required to disclose their presence.

The FDA will give manufacturers 2 years to “identify suitable replacement ingredients and reformulate their food products.”

The 6 de-listed additives still used in the industry have a natural counterpart in food or nature, which the FDA said are not affected by the decision. For example, mycrene and eugenol are naturally occurring in basil. [2]

In 2016, the FDA banned 3 other synthetic additives following a petition by the NRDC and a handful of other environmental groups. It began accepting public comment on the 7 newly-banned chemicals, in addition to Trans,trans-2,4-hexadienal.

A regulatory loophole allows food manufacturers to add potentially toxic ingredients to their products without as much as an FDA safety review. What’s more, companies don’t have to inform the agency when it adds one of these substances to a product.

Americans deserve to know what additives go into their food, especially when there is doubt over their safety.


[1] NPR

[2] CNN