Health experts are calling on the United States to catch up with the international community and ban potentially dangerous additives in food.
Last week, California became the first state to take a major legal step to eliminate cancer-causing additive ingredients in foods.
Gov. Gavin Newsom on Saturday signed the so-called ‘skittles ban,’ banning four popular additives that have been linked to kidney, thyroid and gastrointestinal cancers and mood disorders.
But there are still more than a dozen other ingredients that, despite their known health risks and their ban in European countries, are present in the foods that people eat every day.
Registered dietician Dr. Carolyn Williams told DailyMail.com that it’s about time legislation was enacted to protect Americans from harmful food additives.
While California has taken an important step to protect Americans’ foods from dangerous and disease-causing ingredients, there are still nearly a dozen other ingredients that, despite their known health risks and their bans in other countries, are present in the foods that people eat every day.
She said, “It’s a little embarrassing that a state had to (enact a ban) before the federal government because there is varying knowledge about these ingredients and they vary in their potential health risks.”
None of the ingredients on the banned list are critical or necessary in products, but they are often cheaper, easier, and faster to use in recipes.
They also help to achieve more beautiful and uniform products, but a natural ingredient could be used instead.
While Dr. Williams is hopeful that other states will follow California’s lead, she would still like to see better regulation at the federal level, but acknowledges that this likely won’t happen anytime soon.
‘The FDA takes several years to make changes. There is a lot of bureaucracy and they want to see overwhelming evidence that a certain ingredient has a specific negative impact on health.
Dr. Williams explained that because different additives can have a variety of effects on different people and their true health detriments cannot be proven over time in humans, it is difficult to say conclusively what the side effects of each ingredient are. .
About 12,000 products sold in California contain the four newly banned additives, which are brominated vegetable oil, potassium bromate, propylparaben and red dye number 3.
She said: “We can’t give a group of humans large amounts of potassium bromate and see what happens.” We can’t give them a huge dose for a year and then see how many develop cancer.
‘So you really have to use animal studies and population studies of longevity… look at people eating food for 50 years and look at cancer rates, but that doesn’t really show cause and effect.
“In animal studies, typically what you know is that if it is linked to a potential risk of cancer in animals, it is assumed that it may be potentially carcinogenic in people.”
Potassium bromate, suspected of being a carcinogen, is included in the California ban. Although it is already banned in Europe, China and India, it is present in more than 100 products sold in the United States.
The chemical compound is often used to strengthen dough and comes in the form of white crystals or powders. It is commonly found in baked goods and breads.
However, it is also a suspected carcinogen and has been shown to cause kidney, thyroid, and gastrointestinal cancers in animals.
Dr Williams said: “We can’t directly say that yes, if you take too much of this it causes cancer, but it appears that it does.”
‘And what we do know is that when potassium bromate breaks down in the body, it oxidizes and becomes free radicals. And we do know that free radicals are associated with cancer, mutations and changes in DNA.’
It would be encouraging, Dr. Williams continued, if the FDA followed European Union regulators more closely.
EU regulators rely on the “precautionary principle”, which looks at whether there is a scientific possibility of harm, even if a risk analysis has not shown that the ingredient should be avoided. The FDA, however, is relying on “overwhelming evidence.”
Dr Williams said: “The FDA approaches the risk associated with food additives very differently than most other countries.
‘We are working from two opposite spectrums. The European Union and many other countries say, “Okay, this may have a potential risk, let’s not use it” versus (says the United States) “let’s use it.”
The EU precautionary principle is much more conservative than the FDA regulation, which can be demonstrated by the fact that most of the food additives controversial in the US are banned in the EU.
The EU avoids ingredients whose benefits have not been shown to outweigh the risks, but the FDA asks, Dr. Williams said, “is there really a risk?” “Therefore, overwhelming evidence is needed to show that there is a risk before (the additive) is removed or banned for use.”
And while the FDA may allow the additives in question, one of the things that research has shown, Dr. Williams said, is that the levels that are present in foods are much higher than the FDA’s threshold: ” So we may get a much higher dose. We don’t know.’
Jesse Gabriel, a Woodland Hills Democrat who proposed the California bill, said: ‘The Governor’s signature today represents a big step in our effort to protect California children and families from dangerous and toxic chemicals in our food supply.
‘It is unacceptable that the United States is so far behind the rest of the world when it comes to food security.
‘This bill will not prohibit any food or product; It will simply require food companies to make minor modifications to their recipes and opt for safer alternative ingredients.
“These are already used in Europe and many other places around the world.”
For years, officials have called for safer foods, as more research has shown that food additives, and even their packaging, can cause significant health problems.
Results from a 2022 National Institutes of Health (NIH) study indicated that “chemical food additives can trigger a number of serious problems,” including birth defects of the eyes and brain.
The American Academy of Pediatrics issued a warning in a 2018 statement on food additives and children’s health, saying there were “emerging concerns about children’s health related to the use of dyes, flavorings, and chemicals deliberately added to foods during processing.” .
The Environmental Working Group published guidance in 2020 on the harms of food additives “because the Food and Drug Administration’s regulatory approach to food additives does not take into account the latest science on the health harms caused for additives that can be legally added to processed foods manufactured in the United States.’
Additives banned in Europe but allowed in the United States
- Potassium Bromate
- Butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA)
- Butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT)
- brominated vegetable oil
- Recombined bovine growth hormone (rbGH)
- Recombined bovine somatotropin (rbST)
- Artificial colors Blue 1, Blue 2, Yellow 5, Yellow 6, Red 40 and Red 3
- Titanium dioxide
- Propylparaben (E217)