If you are a food label reader, you’ve come across the non-descript “artificial flavors” ingredient in processed foods and drinks. Which exact artificial flavor is used in the product is likely protected under proprietary rights. But are these ingredients safe?
In the 1960s, the US Food and Drug Adminstration (FDA) approved many artificial, synthetic flavorings. The current list of Synthetic Flavoring Substances and Adjuvants is quite extensive. Of particular concern to advocacy groups are seven chemicals that have been found to induce cancer in humans and animals. A lawsuit has been filed.
7 Artificial Flavors of Concern
- 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)
- styrene 1)https://earthjustice.org/news/press/2018/advocates-sue-fda-to-force-decision-on-cancer-causing-chemicals-in-popular-foods
These artificial flavorings give products their tropical fruit, mint, cinnamon, and/or floral hints.
Prior to the lawsuit filed in May 2018, the FDA failed to act on a petition by consumers and advocates.
According to the US government’s own research, these artificial flavors are known to induce cancers in humans and animals.
Take for example a study done on benzophenone conducted by the National Toxicology Program in 2006. Researchers gave benzophenone to 50 male and female rats and mice over 2 years. The results are very disturbing.
Almost all of the male rats receiving the highest concentration died before the end of the study. Male and female rats and female mice receiving benzophenone weighed less than the controls. Male rats receiving benzophenone had more severe kidney nephropathy than control animals and higher incidences of kidney tumors and leukemia. Female rats receiving benzophenone also had slightly higher rates of leukemia. Male and female mice had slightly increased rates of liver tumors and also increased severities of kidney nephropathy, metaplasia of the epithelium of the nose, and hyperplasia of the spleen. Some female mice also developed rare histiocytic sarcomas.
We conclude that benzophenone caused kidney cancer in male rats, liver tumors in male mice, and histiocytic sarcomas in female mice. Benzophenone may also have been associated with development of leukemia in male and female rats and with liver tumors in female mice.2)https://ntp.niehs.nih.gov/ntp/htdocs/lt_rpts/tr533.pdf
Benzohenone is found in cosmetics, in addition to food products. It is used as a flavor enhancer and has a rose scent.3)https://books.google.com/books?id=vxtxWneRBN4C&pg=PA254&lpg=PA254&dq=benzophenone++flavoring&source=bl&ots=qP7kQTMxYc&sig=-9gsEe9wl3Cubk4Z6L-BeCp3zpU&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwievrHm-MbbAhUytlkKHfzEBkwQ6AEIeDAI#v=onepage&q=benzophenone%20%20flavoring&f=false
Earthjustice explains the reason for the lawsuit:
The Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetics Act prohibits the use of any food additive found to induce cancer in humans or animals. After the FDA approved the seven chemicals at issue for use in food, multiple U.S. and international agencies — including the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ National Toxicology Program — established that each of these chemicals induces cancer in humans or animals. Accordingly, the flavors cannot be deemed safe under the law and cannot lawfully be approved for use in food…
“The federal agency charged with studying toxics found that these chemicals cause cancer. Congress clearly told FDA that known carcinogens cannot be used as food additives. What more does FDA need? It is time for FDA to take seriously its responsibility to keep cancer-causing chemicals out of food,” said Earthjustice senior attorney Peter Lehner. “Consumers cannot identify every ingredient in processed food and they shouldn’t have to; we need FDA to do its job and protect our health and welfare.”
The following organizations are behind the petition and subsequent lawsuit:
- Breast Cancer Prevention Partners
- Center for Environmental Health
- Center for Food Safety
- Center for Science in the Public Interest
- Environmental Defense Fund
- Environmental Working Group
- Natural Resources Defense Council
- WE ACT for Environmental Justice
For more than 50 years, consumers have been ingesting these known carcinogens in their ice cream, gum, candy, baked goods, and beverages. While it is best to avoid all artificial ingredients, all consumers deserve the protection from oversight of government agencies whether they choose healthy foods or not.
Image: silviarita / Pixabay
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