The US Food and Drug Administration is being sued by a coalition of health advocates. According to the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), the administration failed to ban seven artificial flavors that the coalition claims are carcinogenic. Originally, the FDA had accepted an earlier citizens petition asking for the ban in February 2016 – the decision was due in August 2016. The health advocates behind the lawsuit say that the FDA’s delay possibly puts the health of the public at risk.
Earthjustice led the coalition and included CSPI, Breast Cancer Prevention Partners, Center for Environmental Health, Center for Food Safety, Environmental Working Group, Natural Resources Defense Council and WE ACT for Environmental Justice. Even though the group had asked an appeal court to force the FDA to decide whether it will ban the flavors, the regulator still chose to delay their response.
The seven flavors being assessed are normally not well known because they are marketed to consumers as “artificial flavors” on products’ ingredient list. Benzophenone, ethyl acrylate, methyl eugenol, myrcene, pulegone, pyridine and styrene are the flavors in question.
The European Food Safety Authority found benzophenone to be safe at its current usage levels in food after reassessing it. Methyl Eugenol – already banned in Europe – is still in the process of being assessed by the Flavor and Extract Manufacturers Association (FEMA). However, FEMA reports that the listed flavoring, styrene, is no longer allowed to be used in food in the US. As result, the FDA was asked to delete it from the list of synthetic food additives.
Consumer demand for food products without artificial ingredients and chemicals is causing food manufacturers to reject artificial flavoring. It is said that the concerns about synthetic substances are growing amongst shoppers. Consumers wonder why it’s necessary to use artificial ingredients when there are natural alternatives available.
This is pushing food manufactures to make big changes in their ingredients. Maple Leaf Foods is a prime example of this. The Canadian meat manufacturing announced that its product revamp will mean its meats will be made with “real, natural, or simple” ingredients.
According to Supermarket News, a global survey showed that worldwide, about two-thirds of consumers check ingredients while shopping. It is important to most of them that the ingredients labels are “clean labels” and easy to understand. In addition, 75 percent of consumers say natural to them means a food that contains no additives. Seventy percent thought if a product is described as natural, it should be 100 percent pure and high in vitamins and minerals.
Clean label foods have now entered the mainstream; the FDA has been singled out by this lawsuit and may be pressured to respond to the trend.