The soft drink and food processing industries are prowling the halls of Congress like a baying pack. They are after the Delaney amendment to the food and drug laws. Named after Rep. James Delaney (D.-N.Y.), this amendment prohibits the sale of any food additive that causes cancer in humans or animals. WHO WOULDN’T BE incensed if they heard the FDA, still run by Ford Administration holdovers, explain the proposed ban? The message saccharin users got was so distorted that one might suspect that what these FDA leaders really wanted was the overturning of the Delaney law. FDA spokesmen led the public to understand that the agency’s hands were tied by the Delaney provision, that it would take 800 soft drink bottles a day to produce cancer and that one Canadian study was the basis for the proposed ban.
Here are some facts that weren’t related to saccharin users:
1. It was not just one Canadian study that connected saccharin with animal cancer. There are over ten other cancer-positive scientific studies over the past 28 years involving saccharin. The FDA has been dragging its feet for years.
2. Large doses must be used in animal experiments to make them at all valuable in detecting cancer-causing chemicals. Scientists agree that large doses have to be used because of the shorter lifespan and faster metabolism and excretion of chemicals of tested animals compared to human beings, and the much smaller number of animals tested in comparison with the exposed human population.
3. Saccharin cancer tests extrapolated to human beings show that consumption of as few as 1.6 cans of saccharin-based soda per day could increase cancer rates. Over and over again, chemicals that are shown to cause cancer in mice or other animals have later been shown to also cause cancer in human beings.
4. The animal studies have also pointed to a higher risk to the fetus due to consumption of saccharin by pregnant mothers.
5. No scientific study shows that the use of saccharin helps to control weight, notwithstanding some popular feelings to that effect. On the contrary, both human and animal studies show an appetite-stimulant effect.
6. It is false that large doses of any substance would cause cancer. Only a very small fraction of chemicals cause cancer in animal studies even at high doses. And no safe dose of a cancer-causing chemical can be established by scientists, which is why the Delaney amendment is such a prime safeguard for consumers.
7. The effect of saccharin on human beings is not known because it would be unethical to conduct a comprehensive human experiment.
Animal studies are used as a reliable and early, alert mechanism for human precaution. Epidemiological correlations between the incidence of, human cancer and exposure to a given substance have not yet produced any reliable results either way, furthering the need to rely on animal studies.
8. The case for the health benefits of saccharin has not been demonstrated. In 1979, Dr. Kenneth Melmon stated, on behalf of a National Institute of. Medicine committee, that “the data on the efficiency of saccharin or its salts for the treatment of patients with obesity, dental caries, coronary artery disease, or even diabetes has not so far produced a clear picture to us of the usefulness of the, drug.” The Canadian Diabetes Association supports the Canadian ban on saccharin.
9. The FDA would have to ban saccharin even, without the Delaney provision because the general food law, apart from Delaney, disallows additives of unproven safety. This is what Canada did.
10. Cancer scientists believe that most human cancers are caused by chemicals in the environment such as food additives, pollution, and tobacco. Existing laws authorize the removal of pollution and harmful food additives, but not — one should note — tobacco, from our environment. These laws should be enforced.
Readers interested in a fuller report of the saccharin situation should send a self-addressed, stamped (24c postage) envelope to Health Research Group, 2000 P St., N.W., Washington, D.C. 20036.