The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has been petitioned to ban eight synthetic flavorings currently permitted in small amounts in baked goods, candy, and ice cream.
The petition was signed by the Center for Science in the Public Interest, National Resources Defense Council (NRDC), Center for Environmental Health, Environmental Working Group, Center for Food Safety, Consumers Union, Improving Kids’ Environment, and individual scientists Maricel Maffini and James Huff. The petition sponsors say the eight artificial flavorings have been shown to cause cancer in lab animals and should fall under the FDA’s ban on substances that induce cancer in humans or animals, Food Safety News reports.
The eight substances—benzophenone, ethyl acrylate, eugenyl methyl ether, myrcene, pulegone, pyridine, styrene and trans,trans-2,4-hexadienal—are all in the category “generally recognized as safe” (GRAS), which means they may be used in food products. The Flavor and Extract Manufacturers Association has recognized trans,trans-2,4-hexadienal as (GRAS) since 1974; the other seven flavorings have been considered GRAS since 1965. Though the maximum amounts of these substances that may be used in foods are very small, the petition sponsors call for a zero-tolerance standard and say the eight flavorings should be removed from the GRAS list.
The approved uses for the eight chemicals are laid out in detail in the petition, though the petition does not identify the use of the “carcinogenic flavors” in specific products currently on the market. The petition simply states that the flavorings “may be found” in ice cream, baked goods, candy and beverages, adding that neither FDA nor the public knows which of the additives might be found in a particular food product, according to Food Safety News.
The NRDC says it is impossible for consumers to protect themselves from these “harmful chemicals.” Erik Olson, director of NRDC’s health programs, says consumers are “vulnerable” and the government is allowing the food industry to call the shots. Olson said the FDA “should be doing much more to ensure our food is safe, and that should start with obeying the law by banning these synthetic flavorings known to cause cancer in animals, “rather than just continuing to let the food industry have its way.” The petition signers urge the FDA to revoke the approvals granted to the eight flavorings, which they assert can be used under a loophole in the law for chemicals that are GRAS.
The petitioners urge the FDA to formally ban the eight flavorings from use in food. The petition explains that these additives were deemed GRAS long before animal studies showed that the chemicals cause cancer. The National Institutes of Health’s National Toxicology Program says that each of the eight synthetic flavorings has been found to induce cancer in humans or animals. The petition says the flavorings, which have been allowed for more than 40 years, should be prohibited immediately to prevent their continued use in food, according to Food Safety News.