A regulatory relic: After 60 years of research on cancer risk, the Delaney Clause continues to keep us in the past


The Delaney Clause of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act became law in 1958 because of concerns that potentially harmful chemicals were finding their way into foods and causing cancer. It states, “[n]o additive shall be deemed to be safe if it is found to induce cancer when ingested by man or animal, or if it is found, after tests which are appropriate for the evaluation of the safety of food additives, to induce cancer in man or animal.” The United States Food and Drug Administration (US FDA) and United States Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA, prior to implementation of the Food Quality Protection Act) were charged with implementing this clause. Over 60 years, advances in cancer research have elucidated how chemicals induce cancer. Significant advancements in analytical methodologies have allowed for accurate and progressively lower detection limits, resulting in detection of trace amounts. Based on current scientific knowledge, there is a need to revisit the Delaney Clause’s utility. The lack of scientific merit to the Delaney Clause was very apparent when recently the US FDA had to revoke the food additive approvals of 6 synthetic flavoring substances because high dose testing in animals demonstrated a carcinogenic response. However, US FDA determined that these 6 synthetic flavoring substances do not pose a risk to public health under the conditions of intended use. The 7th substance, styrene, was de-listed because it is no longer used by industry. The scientific community is committed to improving public health by promoting relevant science in risk assessment and regulatory decision making, and this was discussed in scientific sessions at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) 2020 Annual Meeting and the Society of Toxicology (SOT) 2019 Annual Meeting. Expert presentations included advances in cancer research since the 1950s; the role of the Delaney Clause in the current regulatory paradigm with a focus on synthetic food additives; and the impact of the clause on scientific advances and regulatory decision making. The sessions concluded with panel discussions on making the clause more relevant based on 21st-century science.

Authors: Mansi Krishan, Lisa Navarro, Barbara Beck, Ricardo Carvajal, Michael Dourson
; Full Source: Toxicology and applied pharmacology 2021 Oct 29;433:115779. doi: 10.1016/j.taap.2021.115779.