Sunday, July 01, 2007

IADSA miasma

By James J. Gormley
Nine additives have been adopted by the Codex Alimentarius Commission (Codex) at levels proposed by the Brussels, Belgium-based International Alliance of Dietary/Food Supplements Associations (IADSA).

The following (mainly synthetic) additives have all been adopted as part of the official Codex General Standard for Food Additives (GSFA) at IADSA’s recommended levels of use in food supplement products: acesulfame potassium; aspartame; castor oil; cyclamates; neotame; polysorbates; polyvinyl alcohol; saccharin; and sucralose.

The result, which came at the recent Codex Alimentarius Commission in Rome, follows an active campaign by IADSA to push for the final adoption of these additives.

Last year, at meetings of both the Codex Additives Committee and the Codex Commission, IADSA managed to prevent the deletion of four additives including erythrosine, a cherry-pink/red synthetic coal tar dye banned for most uses in Norway and the US. IADSA also reportedly played a role in “successfully [raising] the levels of an additional three—BHA, BHT and carnauba wax.”

Most of the additives that IADSA has been campaigning for are far from natural and, in some cases, are either banned in certain countries (e.g., erythrosine) or are associated with negative and toxic effects.

For example, aesulfame K stimulates insulin secretion, possibly aggravating reactive hypoglycemia. In several rodent studies, it also produced lung and breast tumors, leukemia and chronic respiratory disease, even when less than the maximum doses were given. The Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) for aesulfame K indicates that it may be toxic to kidneys and the liver.

Cyclamates were banned as carcinogenic by the US Food & Drug Administration (FDA) and by Britain, Sweden, Denmark, Germany and Finland in 1969.

As far as neotame goes, like aspartame, some of the suggested concerns include gradual neurotoxic and immunotoxic damage from the combination of a formaldehyde metabolite (which is toxic at extremely low doses) and an excitotoxic amino acid.

According to the Environmental Defense Fund’s Chemical Scorecard, polyvinyl alcohol is suspected to be toxic to the gastrointestinal system and the liver and is a neurotoxin. Its main uses are as an adhesive or thickener in latex paints, hairsprays and glues; as a fiber reinforcement in concrete; and to help make Elmer’s glue.

Although the hazard warning regarding cancer was lifted for saccharin in 2001, questions about sucralose’s adverse effects are multiplying and there is a 2006 Citizen Petition calling for the FDA to revoke the approval of this compound due, in part, to reported adverse effects. Sucralose is a highly processed chemical sweetener manufactured with chlorine in a factory in McIntosh, AL, in a process that releases such toxins into the environment as cyclohexane.

Of course for every report questioning safety and asserting dangers, manufacturers of these synthetic chemicals will produce volumes of supportive data and folders bursting with positive scientific and regulatory opinions—so I am not going to waste your time, here, by attempting to issue a battery of specific challenges regarding these artificial compounds.

What I would ask is this, however:
1. Are US natural products companies truly in support of the use of artificial and synthetic chemical additives?
2. Are international organizations, such as IADSA, properly representing the will of the US dietary supplement industry, or of European “pharma-tritional” interests by pushing for these chemical additives?

If the answer is ‘no’ to either of these questions (or to both), then I would invite you to speak with your colleagues, vendors, suppliers and customers and to insist that organizations which claim to represent you do, in fact, just that.

If the answer is ‘yes’ to either or both of these questions, however, then I think we, as an industry, have much larger questions—and problems—to consider than these.

Are we truly the natural products industry—which embraces and encourages natural choices, natural ingredients and sustainable practices—or are we “the chemicals industry” that just so happens to have some natural products and ingredients.

I sure thought I was joining the former in early 1995 when I entered the health-food industry, as we called it then.

What about you?

[adapted from an editorial which originally appeared in the July 2007 issue of Nutrition Industry Executive magazine]
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