A move was begun in the Congress yesterday to challenge the ban ordered Wednesday by the Food and Drug Administration on the artificial sweetner saccharin.
In the Senate, the Labor Committee's Subcommittee on Health said it will hold hearings on the FDA saccharing order later this spring and on the House side Rep. Paul G. Rogers (D-Fla.) called hearings to begin a week from Monday under the jurisdiction of the Subcommittee on Health and the Environment which Rogers chairs. Witnesses will include officials of the FDA and the companies that make saccharin.
At the same time, Rep. James G. Martin (R-N.C.) introduced a resolution calling for the FDA ban to be delayed until Congress holds hearings and finds "that normal consumption of saccharin is unsafe."
"The FDA research establishes that saccharin is potentially carcinogenic if consumed in large enough quantities," Martin said in a letter he sent to all members of Congress. "My calculation is that a consumption rate of about 800 cans of diet drinks a day is therefore dangerous."
The FDA ordered the ban on saccharin when Canadian tests showed that saccharin caused bladder cancers in rats. The Canadian tests involved two groups of 100 rats each that were fed diets that consisted of five per cent saccharin. Large doses are necessary in testing laboratory animals, partly because they live sucha a short time.
Malignant bladder tumors developed in three of the first group of rats and in 14 of the second group, which were offspring of the first group. Only two of a control group of 100 rats not getting any saccharin developed the same tumors.
The FDA said it had no choice but to order then ban because the Delaney Amendment to the Food, Drug and Cosmetics Act of 1958 states that "no additive shall be deemed safe it is found to induce a cancer when ingested by man or anmial."
The way the FDA plans to implement the ban is to propose the ban sometime in the next 30 days, then take another 60 days to accept public comment and then evaluate the comments before issuing a ban. The FDA said it believes it will issue a ban sometime in July, which is the same time Canada proposes to ban saccharin as well.
Reports published yesterday suggested the FDA might try to reclassify sacchrin as a drug, so that diabetics who use it as a sugar substitute could still get it with a doctor's prescription. But an FDA spokesman said the FDA had no intention to reclassify saccharin to keep it on the market.
The FDA tried that approach when it banned cyclamates as a food additive in 1970, but so many consumers bought the "drug" as a food additivee in 1970, but so many consumers bought the "drug" as a food additive that its use became what an FDA spokesman described as a "farce." Cyclamates were taken off the market completely in 1971.
Rep. Martin said he expects his resolution to delay the ban to pass the Congress but he also wondered aloud yesterday if a delaying resolution is enough to counter the FDA ban. Martin said that it might be necessary for Congress to amend the Delaney Amendment, which after all is the main reason the FDA ordered the ban on saccharin.
"I don't want to strike the Delaney Amendment, I want to amend it," Martin said. "I want to make the Delaney Amendment more responsive to today's standards, which I don't believe apply in the saccharin case."