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NRDC, Others Petition FDA to Ban Eight Carcinogenic Flavorings in Food

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International nonprofit environmental organization Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and other groups have filed a petition to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration saying that eight synthetic flavorings used for more than 40 years in the industry—which may be found in ice cream, baked goods, candy and beverages—are known to cause cancer in lab animals, and "should be banned by the FDA."

The synthetic flavorings the groups are calling out to be banned for use in food are:

  • 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
  • Styrene
  • Trans,trans-2,4-hexadienal. 

The petition—filed by NRDC, the Center for Science in the Public Interest, the Center for Food Safety, Consumers Union, Improving Kids’ Environment, the Center for Environmental Health, the Environmental Working Group, and Dr. James Huff, the former associate director for chemical carcinogenesis at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences—seeks two specific actions by FDA.

  • First, the groups are urging the FDA to revoke its 1964 approval allowing seven flavorings to be used in food, and overturn the industry’s 1974 self-approval of the eighth synthetic flavor which they assert can be used under a loophole in the law for chemicals that are Generally Recognized as Safe, or GRAS.
  • Second, the groups urge FDA to formally ban the eight flavorings from use in food, which were allowed on the market long before animal studies showed that the chemicals cause cancer.  "Each of the synthetic flavorings has been found by the National Institutes of Health’s National Toxicology Program to induce cancer in humans or animals," the groups noted.

The groups also say for example, the International Agency for Research on Cancer, an arm of the World Health Organization, designates five of the synthetic flavorings as causing cancer in animals and “possibly carcinogenic to humans,” and the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment in California designates "seven of them as carcinogens," the petition states.  

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