FDA Bans Seven Artificial Flavors Used in Candy, Beer

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A woman shops for frozen foods on an aisle across from sodas and other sugary drinks for sale at a superrmarket in Monterey Park, California on June 18, 2014. The Food and Drug Administration has banned seven artificial flavors commonly used in food items after animal studies showed that they cause cancer. (FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images)

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced on Friday that it has removed seven artificial flavors from its list of approved food additives after animal studies showed that they cause cancer.

The banned chemicals— benzophenone, ethyl acrylate, eugenyl methyl ether, myrcene, pulegone, and pyridine— can be found as flavors and flavor enhancers in common products such as baked goods, desserts, beverages, candy, beer and ice cream.

The FDA also delisted styrene without ruling on its status as a carcinogen, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council, which, along with several other health and consumer organizations, filed a petition in 2015  asking the FDA to ban the chemicals on safety grounds.

“Carcinogens have no place in the food we feed our families," Erik Olson, senior director of health and food at NRDC, said in a statement. "This is welcome news for millions of Americans who have been unknowingly snacking on cancer-causing chemicals for far too long."

Since the FDA first approved the artificial flavors in 1964, government toxicology reports have shown that six of them cause cancer in two species of animals, and that styrene is also “reasonably anticipated" to be carcinogenic, according to the petition.

A law passed in 1958 requires the FDA to ban the use of any food additive found to cause cancer in animals or humans.


The chemicals are hard to pin down on food labels because they are listed as "artificial flavors," according to the Center for Environmental Health.

The FDA says the substances are used "in very small amounts" and carry "very low levels of exposures" that do not pose a risk to public health when used as intended.

Following FDA inaction on the petition, which was revised in 2016, a broad coalition of consumer and health groups sued the FDA in May of this year. In response to the court filing, the FDA agreed to make a decision.

The decision goes into effect immediately following publication in the Federal Register unless companies object. Food manufacturers will then have two years to comply with the ban.