NEW YORK — Six artificial
The dispute highlights the complex rules that govern what goes in our food, how much the public knows about it, and a mysterious class of ingredients that has evolved over decades largely outside of public view.
On food packages, hundreds of ingredients are listed simply as natural
"The food system we have is unimaginable without
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is giving companies two years to purge their products of six artificial
The six artificial
The FDA and the Flavor and Extract Manufacturers Association, an industry group, did not respond when asked for examples of products the six ingredients are used in. But they noted in statements that the compounds have natural counterparts in foods like basil, coffee, grapes and peppermint, and that the action does not affect the naturally derived versions.
The FDA said it had to order the artificial versions out of the food supply because of a lawsuit brought by consumer advocacy groups that cited a 60-year-old regulation known as the Delaney clause. The rule prohibits additives shown to have caused cancer in animals, even if tested at doses far higher than what a person would consume.
In a statement, the
Christopher Kemp, a professor of cancer biology at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, doesn't think the rule is necessarily too strict a threshold. He said animal studies provide the strongest evidence about cancer risk in humans, and that it is better to err on the side of caution.
Erik Olson of the Natural Resources
"It's all secret. You can't pick up an ice cream or chewing gum or a baked good and have any idea what chemicals are in there," he said.
But Bernstein said a more robust regulatory system might inspire greater public confidence about
In a separate but related lawsuit, the FDA is also facing a challenge over its oversight of the universe of ingredients companies can put into foods, including artificial
There's no clear rule for when ingredients should take one path or the other. The artificial sweetener Splenda is an approved food additive. Another sweetener, stevia, was declared GRAS by manufacturers.
The six artificial
Critics say GRAS determinations were meant for basic ingredients like salt and vinegar, not highly engineered ingredients. The advocacy groups suing the FDA say the GRAS option has turned into a loophole that lets companies approve all sorts of ingredients without public scrutiny, including artificial
In September, a judge allowed the legal challenge to move forward.
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Candice Choi, The Associated Press