The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) this week banned seven cancer-causing chemicals added to a variety of food and beverages – although the agency said the chemicals do not pose a public health risk.

The prohibition on synthetically-derived benzophenone, ethyl acrylate, methyl eugenol, myrcene, pulegone, or pyridine comes in response to legal action brought by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and a coalition of health, consumer and environmental groups: Breast Cancer Prevention Partners, Center for Environmental Health, Center for Food Safety, Center for Science in the Public Interest, Earthjustice, Environmental Defense Fund, Environmental Working Group and WE ACT for Environmental Justice.

Called "artificial flavors"

The chemicals are used to add artificial flavoring like cinnamon, floral and mint to everything from ice cream and baked goods, to gum and beer. You likely won’t see them on your food labels; manufacturers are allowed to refer to them simply as “artificial flavors” on labels.

You've likely never seen them on food labels because food manufacturers are permitted to label them simply as "artificial flavors."

Erik Olson, NRDC Senior Director of Health and Food, called the action “welcome news for millions of Americans who have been unknowingly snacking on cancer-causing chemicals for far too long.”

Dosage is a factor

In a statement, the FDA said the petition presented to it did provide evidence that the substances caused cancer in animals who were exposed to high doses of it, but said they are used in “very small amounts” in foods available in the U.S. marketplace, and thus pose no public health risk.

The substances are being removed from the food additive regulations under the Delaney Clause of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FD&C Act) (section 409(c)(3) of the FD&C Act), which requires that the FDA cannot find as safe; i.e., cannot approve, the use of any food additive that has been found to induce cancer in humans or animals at any dose.