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Carcinogens in Your Cookies and Other FDA-Approved Toxins


1. CBD May Be Dangerous and Harmful
     a. Can We Talk about Double Standards, Plse?
          (i) The Research
2. Carcinogens, Etc.
     a. Azodicarbonamide (ADA) and Potassium Bromate
     b. Butylated Hydroxyanisole (BHA)
     c. High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS)
     d. Glyphosate
     e. Nitrates
3. Brain Function, Mental Health, Etc.
     a. Brominated Vegetable Oil (BVO)
     b. Food Colorings, Yellow and Red Dyes
4. Conclusion: What Should Alarm Us?

CBD May Be Dangerous and Harmful

A recent widely publicized U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announcement noted the Administration's concern for public health safety. The threat, ostensibly, is the reckless addition of "maybe toxic" cannabidiol (CBD) to our food. [1]

Hemp and derived CBD have been legal in the U.S. for a year now. But the industry's regulation is still fraught with problems of all kinds.

RELATED: The Greatest Victory for Hemp: The New Farm Bill Signed into Law!

Fifteen companies received warning letters for "unlawfully marketing" the potentially dangerous hemp-derived CBD.

The Administration's remedial strategy includes ongoing work to obtain and evaluate information to address outstanding questions related to the safety of CBD products while maintaining the agency’s rigorous public health standards. 

This sounds great—and in the interest of public health. The largely unregulated market will (and has) seen many charlatans and snake oil vendors thus far, so the FDA is doing its job. 

But good heavens, what's with the scare tactics? And using such grossly distorted facts?

Also, the one big, effervescent, purple elephant in the room... 

Upon scrutiny, these lofty FDA standards seem pretty double because we remember that up to 3,000 chemicals currently allowed in our food have never been reviewed for public safety by the FDA. This was already found by a Pew analysis in 2013. [2]

And the situation has not changed much.

Hemp and derived CBD have been legal in the U.S. for a year now.

RELATED: CBD is Safe. Here’s the Data...

Can We Talk about Double Standards, Plse?

The Pew Charitable Trusts organization is almost a century old. They advertise their work as using a rigorous analytical approach to improve public policy, inform the public, and invigorate civic life.


From 2010 to 2013, Pew conducted a comprehensive assessment of the federal food additive regulatory program. This was done together with the: 

  1. U.S. food industry, 
  2. the public interest community, and 
  3. the federal government (including the FDA).

There are more than 10,000 additives allowed in food.

They titled their final report Fixing the Oversight of Chemicals Added to Our Food. And they didn't mince their words:

With more than 10,000 additives allowed in food, Pew's research found that the FDA regulatory system is plagued with systemic problems, which prevent the agency from ensuring that their use is safe.

A more recent journal article: We are what we eat: Regulatory gaps in the United States that put our health at risk. [3]

The authors criticize the FDA even more vocally in their abstract:

The FDA has allowed some of the proven carcinogenic and other troublesome food additives into our food.

The authors conclude that we are faced today with a regulatory system that, weakened by decades of limited resources, has fallen short of fully enforcing its mandates. Also notable is the fact that the agency's inability to manage the safety of hundreds of chemicals effectively is putting our children’s health at risk.

Following are some of the proven carcinogenic and other troublesome food additives the FDA allows—while whipping up a storm about largely unproven and distorted CBD safety issues.

RELATED: Stress-Cancer Connection and Science of Epigenetics

Carcinogens, Etc.

These cancer-causing substances are banned by the European Union but are FDA-allowed food additives:

Azodicarbonamide (ADA) and Potassium Bromate

Both are used in baked goods as whitening agents. Bromate makes dough rise higher.

Some cancer-causing substances are banned by the European Union but are FDA-allowed food additives in baked goods.

Butylated Hydroxyanisole (BHA)

This antioxidant is a food preservative that caused benign and malignant cancers in mice. [4]

High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS)

This sweetener is made from cornstarch and has never been tested for toxicity by the FDA. The evils of consuming too much sugar are well documented; HFCS is a particularly hideous demon. Science has shown that it promotes obesity, which, in turn, increases the risk of developing cancer. Its ingestion is also associated with insulin resistance, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and fatty liver disease. [5] [6] [7]

High Fructose Corn Syrup is a particularly hideous demon.

This is not all. In 2005, the FDA was also made aware of mercury-contaminated HFCS samples by one of their own researchers, Renee Dufault. At the time, the agency refused to investigate her findings, choosing instead to agree with her critic Dennis J. Paustenbach—a known and discredited hired gun for many a large corp. He criticized Dufault's study sample size and the fact that she identified inorganic mercury in the HFCS. (This was said to be less harmful than organic mercury and was below toxic levels.) 

But as Dufault pointed out in response: 

There have been no long-term studies of the long-term effects of inorganic mercury exposure—none. Does that mean it’s not harmful? No.

It's known that even in small doses, inorganic mercury accumulates in the body and can be harmful to the very young and the very old, she asserted in an interview with Tom Philpott (erstwhile food writer for Grist). [11,12]

There's so much alarming evidence that glyphosate is a dangerous substance and is unfit for human consumption in any amount.


This one needs little introduction. The mention of "Monsanto" and "Roundup" can still make us foam at the mouth. It also seems (unfortunately) that the battle is far from over, as the FDA still allows a certain amount of the herbicide in the fruits and vegetables we consume. 

This still stands despite so much alarming evidence that glyphosate is a dangerous substance and is unfit for human consumption in any amount. 

Its carcinogenic properties continue to be hotly debated among scientists, Bayer (formerly Monsanto), and consumer advocacy groups. Yet glyphosate cannot seem to shake evidence of an association with non-Hodgkin lymphoma. 

Glyphosate cannot seem to shake evidence of an association with non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

This is the latest evidence, taken as is from the advocacy site, U.S. Right to Know: [13]

April 2019: The U.S. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry issued its draft toxicological profile for glyphosate, which reports an increased cancer risk from glyphosate exposures. Emails released via court proceedings show that officials at EPA and Monsanto tried to hinder the ATSDR report.

March 2019: A study published in the International Journal of Epidemiology analyzed data from more than 30,000 farmers and agricultural workers from studies done in France, Norway, and the U.S. and reported links between glyphosate and diffuse large B-cell lymphoma.

February 2019: A meta-analysis published in Mutation Research/Reviews in Mutation Research reported a “compelling link” between glyphosate-based herbicides and non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Three of the study authors were members of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)’s scientific advisory panel on glyphosate, who have stated publicly that the EPA failed to follow proper scientific practices in its glyphosate assessment.

January 2019: An analysis published in Environmental Sciences Europe argues that the U.S. EPA’s classification of glyphosate disregarded substantial scientific evidence of genotoxicity (the negative impact on a cell’s genetic material) associated with weed killing products such as Roundup.

Fatty liver disease is among the health concerns pertaining to glyphosate.

RELATED: 5 Misconceptions About Hormones You Need to Know

Other health concerns pertaining to this toxin include:

  • Endocrine / hormone disruption
  • Fatty liver disease
  • Shortened pregnancy periods in women
  • Spontaneous abortion and congenital abnormalities
  • Reproductive problems
  • Killing off of beneficial gut bacteria (which has been shown to cause anxiety and depression in rats)
  • DNA damage to human embryonic, placental, and umbilical cord cells
  • Chronic kidney disease due to heavy metals (which the toxin helps to transport in the body)

The herbicide is also harmfully impacting bee and monarch butterfly populations.

Glyphosate is “generally recognized as safe” (GRAS) by the FDA. Yet...

...the FDA is also indicating today that it cannot conclude that CBD is generally recognized as safe (GRAS) among qualified experts for its use in human or animal food. [1]

Glyphosate is linked to shortened pregnancy periods in women.

RELATED: CBD Oil and Pregnancy: Is It Safe for My Baby?


This is another food additive that's never been tested by the FDA. It's commonly used as a preservative or a color-enhancing substance for foodstuffs like cheese, processed meats, and fish.

Yet in 2006, the International Agency for Research on Cancer reported nitrates and nitrites as "probable human carcinogens." [14]

A more recent meta-analysis of the literature concluded that “high intake of nitrites…resulted in an elevated risk of cancer.” [15]

To quote directly from Project CBD:

“Many unanswered questions and data gaps about CBD toxicity exist,” the FDA alleges. Yet there are numerous peer-reviewed research papers that clearly delineate the toxic effects of nitrates and nitrates, which the FDA, perversely, still consider to be GRAS, while CBD is officially forbidden in food. [17]

It boggles the mind...

“Many unanswered questions and data gaps about CBD toxicity exist,” the FDA alleges.

RELATED: CBD Health Benefits: Separating Fact from Fiction

Brain Function, Mental Health, Etc.

Also banned by the EU:

Brominated Vegetable Oil (BVO)

This is added to citrus-flavored soft drinks, like Mountain Dew and other sports drinks. Its purpose is to prevent ingredients from separating. 

Explains New York Times writer Roni Caryn Rabin:

(BVO) contains bromine, the element found in brominated flame retardants, and studies suggest it can build up in the body and can potentially lead to memory loss and skin and nerve problems. An F.D.A. spokeswoman said it is safe in limited amounts, and that the agency would take action “should new safety studies become available that raise questions about the safety of BVO.” [8]

BVO contains bromine, found in brominated flame retardants. The retardants get used in things like children's products, furniture, etc. According to another NYT Business Day report, research has found that these build up in the body and breast milk. Animal and some human studies have linked bromine to neurological impairment, reduced fertility, changes in thyroid hormones, and early onset puberty. [9]

This substance is no longer on the FDA's GRAS list. Some studies were done in the '70s, and a preliminary ruling was made that BVO is safe—pending more studies.

But over three decades later, no studies have been done. In response to a query, an FDA spokesperson responded with: 

Any change in the interim status of B.V.O. would require an expenditure of F.D.A.’s limited resources, which is not a public health protection priority for the agency at this time. [9]

BVO is no longer on the FDA's GRAS list.

Food Colorings, Yellow and Red Dyes

While the EU allows these colorings, products are required to carry a warning that they may cause hyperactivity and attention issues in children. 

The FDA requires this of only one food coloring:

It is possible, but rare, to have an allergic-type reaction to a color additive. For example, FD&C Yellow No. 5 may cause itching and hives in some people. This color additive is widely found in beverages, desserts, processed vegetables, drugs, makeup, and other products. [10]

Food Colorings, Yellow and Red Dyes

Conclusion: What Should Alarm Us?

Well, all the above evidence—which seems to point to this:

  • Despite convincing evidence and numerous appeals by consumer bodies, many harmful substances are still untested by the agency and allowed as food additives. In this, the agency seems to cherry-pick the facts and what it deems important for our health.
  • The FDA and industry giants (such as PepsiCo) seem to shrug and cite "too expensive" as reasons not to remedy the situation. As if health can ever have a price tag. [9]
  • The FDA cites "concerns over public health" regarding CBD, but then releases an announcement that's alarmist at best, and misinforming at worst.

RELATED: CBD Dosage 101: What You Need To Know

For CBD consumers, the wisest takeaway from this is probably best expressed by Healthline:

While the FDA works on improving its oversight and regulatory structure, the best thing a consumer CBD user can do is buy from a marketplace that offers transparent laboratory testing, possibly favoring states that already have firm CBD regulations in place—and to use the products in moderation. [16]


  1. https://www.fda.gov/news-events/press-announcements/fda-warns-15-companies-illegally-selling-various-products-containing-cannabidiol-agency-details
  2. https://www.pewtrusts.org/en/research-and-analysis/reports/2013/11/07/fixing-the-oversight-of-chemicals-added-to-our-food
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5737876/#
  4. https://ntp.niehs.nih.gov/ntp/roc/content/profiles/butylatedhydroxyanisole.pdf
  5. https://care.diabetesjournals.org/content/36/1/11
  6. https://www.acc.org/about-acc/press-releases/2015/09/28/14/11/new-research-exposes-the-health-risks-of-fructose-and-sugary-drinkspress-release
  7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3476838/
  8. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/12/28/well/eat/food-additives-banned-europe-united-states.html
  9. https://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/13/business/another-look-at-a-drink-ingredient-brominated-vegetable-oil.html
  10. https://www.fda.gov/consumers/consumer-updates/how-safe-are-color-additives
  11. https://ehjournal.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1476-069X-8-2
  12. https://grist.org/article/sweetness-and-blight/
  13. https://usrtk.org/pesticides/glyphosate-health-concerns/
  14. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK326544/
  15. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4690057/
  16. https://www.healthline.com/health-news/can-cbd-hurt-your-liver-what-to-know-about-a-new-study#The-bottom-line
  17. https://www.projectcbd.org/politics/toxic-fda-approved-food-additives

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