Sunday, 26 Jun 2022

Food additive or carcinogen? The growing list of chemicals banned by EU but used in US

Food additive or carcinogen? The growing list of chemicals banned by EU but used in US


Food additive or carcinogen? The growing list of chemicals banned by EU but used in US

The additive, also known as E171, joins a host of other chemicals that are banned in foods in the European Union but allowed in the US.

Potassium bromate, an oxidizing agent often found in bread and dough and linked in animal studies to kidney and thyroid cancers, has been banned in the EU since 1990 but is still commonly used in the US. Brominated vegetable oil is also banned in the EU but is used as an emulsifier in citrus sodas and drinks in the US. Long-term exposure has been linked to headaches, memory loss and impaired coordination.

Unlike the EU, the US does not have agencies like EFSA that offer independent scientific evaluation of new chemicals brought to the market. And while the EU has consistently updated its methods and processes for evaluating new chemicals, some experts say the US system, set up more than half a century ago, needs updating.

In the US, the Food Additive Amendment was created in 1958, after public concern about the safety of food chemicals. All new food chemicals were required to be evaluated and approved by the FDA, although chemicals already in the food system before the amendment were not re-evaluated.

In the case of additives like titanium dioxide, manufacturers petition the FDA for its approval by submitting evidence that the substance is safe for its intended use. The FDA evaluates the application, and will authorize the additive if it concludes the data provided demonstrates that the substance is safe to use.

Alongside the lack of independent evaluation, the guidance on how to conduct these food safety assessments has not been updated at the FDA since 2007.

The titanium dioxide global market was valued at $17.19bn in 2020 and is projected to grow more than 6% over the next five years.

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