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Common Food Flavoring May Cause Cancer

A commonly used but potentially carcinogenic flavoring compound, methyleugenol, stays in people's bodies only briefly, but scientists aren't ready to rule out health risks from the chemical. Methyleugenol is used in a seemingly endless list of foods from candy and cookies to pates and French toast. Past research has shown that the flavoring causes cancer of the liver, stomach, kidneys, and connective tissues in mice and rats, and while no study has proved a carcinogenic effect in people, the biennial Report on Carcinogens released by the federal government's National Toxicology Program (NTP) in 2002, for the first time listed methyleugenol as "reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen." Some 98 percent of 206 adults tested for methyleugenol had detectable concentrations of the chemical in their blood. Perfumes, toiletries, sunscreens, and cigarettes also contain methyleugenol.

Science News March 22, 2004

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