A coalition of health groups filed a petition with FDA last week calling on the government agency to issue a ban for eight synthetic flavorings—some found in ice cream, baked goods, candy and beverage—that are known to be carcinogenic.

The synthetic flavorings the group seeks to ban are:

  1. Benzophenone (also known as diphenylketone)
  2. Ethyl acrylate
  3. Eugenyl methyl ether (also known as 4-allylveratrole or methyl eugenol)
  4. Myrcene (also known as 7-methyl-3-methylene-1,6-octadiene)
  5. Pulegone (also known as p-menth-4(8)-en-3-one)
  6. Pyridine
  7. Styrene
  8. Trans,trans-2,4-hexadienal.

FDA is prohibited by law to allow the use of food additives known to cause cancer in lab animals. According to the National Resources Defense Council, one of the petitioners, the chemicals covered by the petition have been demonstrated in studies using government-approved methods to cause cancer in animals.

“But the agency knows little about the human health risk posed by the eight additives because FDA and the public do not know which of the flavorings are added to what food items, or in what amounts,” the coalition states. Because of this, the coalition says it is impossible for informed consumers to protect themselves from these chemicals.

“Consumers are vulnerable, the government isn’t doing its job, and the food industry is calling the shots,” says Erik Olson, director of the Health Program at the Natural Resources Defense Council, and one of the petitioners. “The FDA should be doing much more to ensure our food is safe, and that should start with obeying the law by banning these synthetic flavorings known to cause cancer in animals, rather than just continuing to let the food industry have its way.”

The petition was filed by NRDC, the Center for Science in the Public Interest, the Center for Food Safety, Consumers Union, Improving Kids’ Environment, the Center for Environmental Health, the Environmental Working Group and Dr. James Huff, the former associate director for chemical carcinogenesis at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.

In the petition, the group urges FDA to revoke its 1964 approval allowing seven flavorings to be used in food and overturn the industry’s 1974 self-approval of the eighth synthetic flavor, which they assert can be used under a loophole in the law for chemicals that are “Generally Recognized as Safe” or GRAS.

 The petition can be read here