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Health Highlights: Nov. 13, 2018

Last Updated: November 13, 2018.

Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by the editors of HealthDay:

FDA Bans Six Artificial Flavors

Six artificial flavors that have been linked to cancer in animals must be eliminated from food products, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration says.

They have names like methyl eugenol, benzophenone, ethyl acrylate and pyridine and simulate cinnamon or spices, fruity or minty flavors, and even balsamic vinegar, according to the Associated Press.

Food makers have two years to stop using the artificial flavors. It's not clear which food products currently contain them.

When asked by the AP for examples of products in which the six ingredients are used, the FDA and the Flavor and Extract Manufacturers Association did not respond.

The FDA believes the six ingredients are safe in the small amounts they're used, but ordered them out of the food supply due to a lawsuit brought by consumer advocacy groups. They cited a rule prohibiting additives shown to have caused cancer in animals, even if that occurred at far higher amounts than what people would consume, the AP reported.

Critics of the rule say it's too strict.

But animal studies provide the strongest evidence about cancer risk in humans, and it is better to err on the side of caution, Christopher Kemp, a professor of cancer biology at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, told the AP.

The Natural Resources Defense Council was one of the groups that sued over the six artificial flavors. Along with the cancer risk in animals, it's not known what effect the six additives might have when used combination with other ingredients, according to the council's Erik Olson.

He also noted that the six ingredients are listed on food labels only as "artificial flavor," which means there's no way for consumers to know in what concentrations they're used in specific products.

"It's all secret. You can't pick up an ice cream or chewing gum or a baked good and have any idea what chemicals are in there," Olson told the AP.


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