On Sept. 6, 1958, the “natural” food movement and chemophobia as we know it were born. On that day, the Food Additives Amendment of 1958, which modified the U.S. Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act of 1938, came into force.
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Explore this issueOctober/November 2018
Also known as the Delaney Clause, it stated if a synthetic chemical could be shown to cause cancer in laboratory animals, the chemical must be banned. It also suggested if the exact same chemical was natural, it was safe. While this was immediately attacked as a baffling and unscientific approach to carcinogenicity, many lawyers were looking forward to decades of litigation.
As our understanding of the suite of diseases we call cancer has increased, so have the lawsuits. Consumer advocacy groups have made a fortune claiming products like coffee, red dye #2, movie theater popcorn, and Chinese food are harmful because they contain a chemical that caused cancer in rats. Yet no one has been saved by the scaremongering that chemophobia brings.
Rats Aren’t Humans
The Delaney Clause was attacked by the science community for two important reasons, both of which still stoke public skepticism when someone claims the need to ban a chemical “at the drop of a rat.”