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Consumer Groups Sue FDA for Failure to Prevent Certain Artificial Chemicals in Food

On 2 May, a coalition of health, consumer and environmental advocacy organisations sued the FDA in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit for its alleged failure to decide whether to prohibit seven cancer-causing artificial chemicals from use in food as flavours. According to a press release by this group, the targeted chemicals – benzophenone (also known as diphenylketone), ethyl acrylate, eugenyl methyl ether (also known as 4-allylveratrole or methyl eugenol), myrcene (also known as 7-methyl-3-methylene-1,6-octadiene), pulegone (also known as p-menth-4(8)-en-3-one), pyridine and styrene – have been used in beverages,  baked goods, candy, chewing gum and ice cream.

The associations note that while these seven chemicals are used to flavour a wide variety of processed foods, they are likely unfamiliar to consumers because under current food labelling rules they would all appear only as “artificial flavor” on food ingredient lists. Some of the chemicals add floral, cinnamon or mint flavour to baked goods, beverages, candy, chewing gum and ice cream, while others add fruit-like or other appetising flavours. The associations indicate that multiple U.S. and international agencies, including the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ National Toxicology Program, have determined that the targeted chemicals induce cancer in humans or animals. The associations therefore argue that the chemicals cannot be deemed safe under U.S. law and, as a result, cannot lawfully be approved for use in food.

Even though the FDA has known for years that these chemicals cause cancer, the organisations add, “it nonetheless has failed to take legally required action on a petition by citizen organizations presenting this evidence and reminding FDA of its duty to prohibit carcinogenic substances in food.” The FDA was statutorily required to issue a final decision on this petition by August 2016 but it has so far failed to act, which the organisations contend “defies a congressional mandate requiring prompt action in assessing the safety of chemicals added to food and puts public health and welfare at risk.”

Content provided by Picture: HKTDC Research
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