FDA removes 7 carcinogenic flavorings from approved food additives list

FDA Removes 7 Carcinogenic Flavorings from Approved Food Additives List

Statement of CSPI policy director Laura MacCleery

Americans deserve food free from synthetic additives known to be carcinogens. The decision today by the Food and Drug Administration to remove seven such carcinogenic synthetic flavorings, variously used in drinks, candy, ice cream, and other foods, from its list of approved food additives is an important victory for consumer confidence.

The move is in response to a 2016 petition filed by Environmental Defense Fund, Natural Resources Defense Council, CSPI, and other organizations, and a subsequent lawsuit to prompt an agency response that was filed on our behalf by Earthjustice earlier this year. 

The flavorings were listed by FDA as safe to use in food in the 1960s, based on the science then available to the agency. Since that time, they had been tested and determined to have evidence of carcinogenicity by FDA’s sister agency, the National Toxicology Program. By law, FDA is required to withdraw approvals for use of a substance where there is evidence that the substance is a carcinogen.

The FDA is giving the food industry two years to reformulate their products to eliminate six of the seven chemicals: benzophenone, ethyl acrylate, eugenyl methyl ether (also known as methyl eugenol), myrcene, pulegone, and pyridine. The seventh flavor, styrene, was the subject of a separate industry petition and has already been abandoned, according to the agency and the industry.  Pursuant to a separate FDA decision issued today, it also is no longer approved for use in food. FDA is also no longer allowing the use of one of the chemicals, benzophenone, as a plasticizer in rubber articles that contact food.