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FDA Bans 7 Cancer-Causing Food Additives Found in Popular Foods

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Under pressure from the Environmental Working Group (EWG) and other environmental and public health groups, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has banned seven substances used in artificial flavors that have been linked to cancer in animals.


"Chemicals that could cause cancer should never have been allowed in our food in the first place, especially not hiding behind the confusing label of 'artificial flavors,'" said Melanie Benesh, EWG's legislative attorney. "The FDA finally did the right thing by taking this important step to better protect consumers."

These food additives are most commonly used to enhance the flavor of baked goods, ice cream, candy, chewing gum and beverages. The newly banned flavors are benzophenone, ethyl acrylate, eugenyl methyl ether, myrcene, pulegone, pyridine and styrene.

"Consumers will never know which foods were made with these chemicals, since manufacturers have been allowed to hide these ingredients behind the vague term 'flavor,'" said Dawn Undurraga, EWG's nutritionist. "This is a positive step forward, but the FDA should empower consumers to make their own fully informed decisions by requiring full ingredient disclosure."

The ban on styrene was also supported by a petition from the food industry. But the FDA acted on the other six after public interest groups filed a lawsuit in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit petitioning the FDA to make a final decision whether to prohibit the seven cancer-causing artificial chemicals from use in food.

Earthjustice represented the petitioners, including Breast Cancer Prevention Partners, the Center for Environmental Health, Center for Food Safety, the Center for Science in the Public Interest, Environmental Defense Fund, the Environmental Working Group, Natural Resources Defense Council, and WE ACT for Environmental Justice.

Manufacturers that use these food additives will have two years to comply with the new rules.

To learn more about the chemicals used in processed foods, please visit EWG's Dirty Dozen Guide to Food Additives. Consumers looking for healthier options can also visit EWG's Food Scores database or download EWG's Healthy Living App, which provides ratings for more than 120,000 food and personal care products.

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