There's a major health risk associated with them, according to new research.
Last week, the Food and Drug Administration officially banned the use of seven different food additives after both food safety experts and environmentalists presented research suggesting that these substances caused cancer in laboratory animals. One of the flavors had already been removed from the FDA's approved list because it's no longer used by many manufacturers.
On most labels that you'd find in the grocery store, these ingredients are listed simply as "artificial flavors" rather than by their specific names. The six artificial additives linked to cancer—benzophenone, ethyl acrylate, eugenyl methyl ether, myrcene, pulegone, and pyridine, respectively—are typically added to products to simulate natural mint, citrus, and cinnamon flavors.
According to Laura MacCleery, policy director for the Center for Science in the Public Interest, these flavorings are most often found in baked goods, candy, carbonated drinks and beverages, chewing gum, and ice cream. MacCleery said that the FDA first received a petition to ban these additives back in 2016 before a few health advocacy organizations sued the federal agency for a response.
The flavors in question were first approved for use in 1964, according to CNN, but the United States Department of Health and Human Services' National Toxicology Program were the ones to test the additives for cancer. Two different species of animals were found to contract cancer from the artificial flavors, the report says.
More on foods that can cause you harm:
- Here's What You Should Know About Artificial Sweeteners
- 3 Common Cooking Techniques That Can Increase Toxicity in Your Food
- Can Artificial Coloring Have an Effect on ADHD?
In their official announcement, the FDA notes that these flavorings are used "in very small amounts" within the U.S., concluding that they don't "pose a risk to public health under the conditions of their intended use." The national agency, however, is required by law to ban any food additive that has been shown to cause cancer in humans, or animals, in any dose, CNN reports.
Those manufacturers who still use the six additives in their products will have two years to find replacements, the FDA says—hopefully, they'll incorporate natural mint, citrus, and cinnamon instead.