A bill to prevent the Food and Drug Administration from banning saccharin sales for 18 months, was adopted by a 9 to 3 vote in a House Commerce subcommittee yesterday.
A canadian study showing that the artificial sweetener causes cancer in rats led the FDA to propose restricting over-the-counter sales of saccharin and banning products containing it, such as soft drinks.
However, the Canadian study, in which the rats were fed massive doses of saccharin, became highly controversial. The public outery and letter-writing campaign to Congress against the ban has been intense.
Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) said yesterday the 18-month delay would help in "restoring credibility for what ever action the government eventually takes." The bill requires the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Science to do its own study and report in one year on the degree of risk in saccharin.
But Rep. Andrew maguire (D-N.J.) said further Canadian studies have already shown an increased risk of bladder cancer, particularly for men, from saccharin use. "We don't want to act on the basis of scientific evidence, so why don't we just say we're countermanding the FDA and making a political decision" because of the controversy, Marguire said.
However, Health Subcommittee Chairman Paul Rogers (D-Fla.) said an unreleased Johns Hopkins University study shows there is no connection between bladder cancer and saccharin.
A Senate subcommittee has already adopted a similar 18-month moratorium proposed by Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.). The full Human Resources Committee is expected to take it up this weeK.
During the 18 months, the Senate bill would ban advertising of saccharin products and require them to carry a label warning that saccharin has been found to cause cancer in and many cause cancer in human.
The House bill would not require an advertising ban or labeling, but would permit the FDA to adopt both if it deemed them necessary.
FDA chairman Donald Kennedy has endorsed a warning label, but the House subcommittee voted 5 to 4 against requiring one.
"If we start warning before the conclusions are in, we'll do irreparable damage to many types of businesses and in the end we may be wrong." Rep. Jew Skubitz (R. Kans.) argued. However, on a voice vote the subcommittee rejected a Skubitz amendment that would have struck out FDA's authority to require a warning label.
Also rejected 5 to 4 was a proposal by Rep. Richard Ottinger (D-N.Y.) that would have lifted the moratorium if a safe substitute for saccharin were found in the 18 months.
Another Ottinger amendment, which would have allowed the FDA to prepare and promulagate regulations short of a ban, was defeated 8 to 5.
Rogers said he expected his subcommittee's bill to reach the full Commerce Committee in the next week or so and to be acted on by the House before the August vacation recess.
In addition to asking the Academy of Science ot look into the risk in saccharin, the subcommittee asked the academy to report in 18 months on the overall human application of animal tests. Under a statue called the Delaney amendment any substance which is shown to cause cancer in rats must be banned. Waxman said yesterday delaying the saccharin ban may hold off an assault on the Delaney amendment, which, he said, "I'mnot ready to change."