U.S – The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is facing calls to reconsider its approvals for four carcinogenic chemicals widely used as food additives and color additives. 

The influential consumer advocacy groups behind the move—Environmental Defense Fund, Breast Cancer Prevention Partners, Center for Environmental Health, Environmental Working Group (EWG), and environmental health consultant Lisa Lefferts—have submitted two petitions urging the FDA to rescind approvals for benzene, trichloroethylene (TCE), methylene chloride, and ethylene dichloride.

These carcinogenic chemicals find applications as solvents in various food-related processes, including decaffeinated coffee, hops and hop extracts, spice extracts, ink for produce marking, water used to wash sugar beets, and as diluents in pesticides. 

The petitioners argue that these additives are either known or anticipated to cause multiple forms of cancer, such as liver cancer, kidney cancer, lung cancer, leukemia, and non-Hodgkin lymphoma. 

Additionally, these chemicals have been linked to various health effects, including fetal cardiac malformations and developmental problems (TCE), decreased blood cell counts (benzene), kidney damage (ethylene dichloride), and liver harm (methylene chloride).

In 2023, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) took steps to address the risks associated with trichloroethylene and methylene chloride, proposing the elimination of their uses regulated under the Toxic Substances Control Act. 

However, the FDA’s jurisdiction over food-related uses under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act remains in place, prompting the recent petitions.

This call for action underscores the growing concern among consumer advocacy groups regarding the potential health risks associated with these chemicals. 

The FDA now faces the task of reevaluating its stance on these additives and considering whether the risks posed to public health warrant a reconsideration of their approvals in the realm of food and color additives. 

The outcome of this evaluation could have far-reaching implications for food safety standards and consumer protection in the United States.

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