If you look at the label on your favorite box of cereal, chances are you’ll see the ingredient “artificial flavors” listed. Have you ever stopped to think what exactly makes up these additives meant to make your cinnamon-flavored breakfast taste so, cinnamon-y?
If not, then you’re in for a treat. You’re looking at the synthetically-derived benzophenone, ethyl acrylate, methyl eugenol, myrcene, pulegone, and pyridine. Ironically, these seven compounds are added to food to make it taste more natural. Coincidentally, they’ve also been linked to cancer.
That’s why the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), under the urging of several consumer activist organizations, banned these mint, cinnamon, floral, and other flavored chemicals from being added to food and beverages – from ice cream and donuts to candy and beer.
“Carcinogens have no place in the food we feed our families. This is welcome news for millions of Americans who have been unknowingly snacking on cancer-causing chemicals for far too long. The FDA’s free pass for these dangerous secret ingredients stops now,” said Erik Olson, Senior Director of Health and Food at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) in a statement.
Six of the synthetic substances are being delisted after they were shown to cause cancer while a seventh is simply no longer used by industry, according to a multi-organizational petition filed in the Federal Register. Until now, the additives were found in the food additive regulations under the Delaney Clause of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act of 1958, which requires that the FDA cannot approve of the use of any additives that have been found to induce cancer in humans or animals at any dose.
“Although we are amending our food additive regulations for these synthetic flavoring substances in accordance with the Delaney Clause, the FDA’s rigorous scientific analysis has determined that they do not pose a risk to public health under the conditions of their intended use,” wrote the agency in a statement.
These substances are typically used in foods and plastic wrapping available in the US marketplace (many have already been banned in Europe) in very small amounts, resulting in low levels of exposure. The FDA holds that a recent exposure assessment found the additives do not pose a cancer risk to humans at current usage levels, but do so at much higher levels in animal trials.
From the time of publication into federal law, companies have two years to remove these additives and reformulate their food products.