Do you have a sweet tooth and enjoy treats with flavors like mint, citrus and cinnamon? Well, many of your favorite snacks will be experiencing a shakeup soon.
On Oct. 5, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration removed its approval of seven synthetic flavoring substances and flavor enhancers because they are carcinogenic to animals. The additives that are no longer allowed are benzophenone; ethyl acrylate; eugenyl methyl ether; myrcene; pulegone; and pyridine. (The seventh banned substance, styrene, is no longer in use by the industry but is nevertheless being added to the list.).
If you take a look at food labels in your pantry, you probably won’t find these specific ingredients listed. According to the Environmental Defense Fund, food manufacturers can legally simplify them as “artificial flavors.”
The change comes after multiple studies showed six of these synthetic flavoring substances caused cancer in laboratory animals. Several environmental and consumer groups, including Consumers Union, the Breast Cancer Fund, the Center for Food Safety, and the Center for Science in the Public Interest, brought petitions to the FDA asking it to remove these additives.
The FDA opted to remove its approval of them in compliance with the Delaney Clause of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act. According to the Delaney Clause, the FDA cannot allow any food additive found to induce cancer in humans or animals at any dose. (The key words to note are “any dose.”)
Chewing gum, ice cream, candy and other snack foods contain these artificial flavorings in very small amounts. Those levels are much lower than the doses causing cancer in the animals in the concerning studies. In fact, both the Flavor & Extract Manufacturers Association and the FDA said the flavorings offer very low levels of exposures and low risk to people eating them.
“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 FDA shared in a press release.
In other words, there’s no reason to sound the alarm or completely clear out the snack pantry.
The FDA will give manufacturers two years to reformulate their food products with suitable replacement ingredients to comply with the new regulations.
How do you feel about this news? Does it make you want to give your pantry a makeover?