Back in the 1970s, the Food and Drug Administration sought to ban the sale of the artificial sweetener saccharin on the precautionary grounds that some studies had found that it increased the risk of bladder cancer in rodents. It took an act of Congress to prevent this ban. From Nexis, a 1977 Associated Press story sums up what was happening:
President Carter signed legislation Wednesday postponing for 18 months the Food and Drug Administration's proposed ban on the use of saccharin as an artificial sweetener, the White House said.
The legislation also orders the Department of Health, Education and Welfare to study saccharin and other food additives.
The bill, which Carter signed without comment, would require cancer warnings on food products containing saccharin. Under the measure signed by the president, saccharin food products in interstate commerce must bear the following warning.
"Use of this product may be hazardous to your health. This product contains saccharin which has been determined to cause cancer in laboratory animals."
Saccharin, the only artificial sweetener on the market, has been linked in Canadian studies to bladder cancer in laboratory animals.
The bill was approved earlier this month. The House passed it on a voice vote and the Senate by a vote of 87 to 7.
During the 18-month moratorium on the ban, the government will study the relative health risks and benefits of using saccharin as a sugar substitute.
Under the legislation, the Food and Drug Administration is given authority to require similar cancer warnings on vending machines dispensing soft drinks or other products containing saccharin.
Retail stores selling saccharin products, with the exception of restaurants, would be required to post signs warning customers of the cancer danger of the dietetic sweetener. These stores would also have to make available literature on the saccharin controversy.
Proponents of saccharin, among them diet organizations and the beverage industry, assert that the artificial sweetener is needed by diabetics and others who must restrict the amount of sugar they consume.
The Food and Drug Administration wanted to prohibit use of saccharin as an additive to foods and beverages, but allow its sale as a nonprescription drug.
The cancer warning will be required on products at least 90 days after the Food and Drug Administration issues final rules carrying out the legislation.
Congress got around to passing legislation in 2000 removing the warning label. Some 40 years later, the Environmental Protection Agency is now issuing a new rule removing "saccharin and its salts from the lists of hazardous constituents and commercial chemical products which are hazardous wastes when discarded or intended to be discarded." How's that for speedy government action!