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Feds reluctantly accept Delaney ruling.

Last year, a federal court revoked the Environmental Protection Agency's interpretation of the nation's food-additives law -- one involving acceptable amounts of known animal carcinogens in processed foods. On May 7, the Agriculture Department, the Food and Drug Administration, and EPA jointly stated they would yield to the court. Thus, EPA will no longer grant pesticide-use exemptions in violation of the Delaney clause.

The clause, a 1958 amendment to the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, prohibits the sale of processed foods containing higher concentrations of carcinogens than existed in the raw ingredients.

Over the past 35 years, improvements in analytical techniques have made possible detection of many toxic agents at concentrations below those believed to constitute health risks. The result, EPA and certain FDA officials have argued, is that science has gone beyond the Delaney clause (SN: 2/15/92, p.105).

At the suggestion of the National Academy of Sciences (SN: 6/6/87, p.361), EPA began coping with the problem in 1988 by offering select exemptions to pesticide-use rules -- but only when residues of the potential carcinogens involved appeared to pose a "de minimis" (negligible) health risk.

Last year, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled that however reasonable that may be, only Congress can change the law (SN: 7/18/92, p.39).

Because this ruling "leaves us little choice but to deny emergency exemptions to pesticides that would be covered by the Delaney clause," EPA Administrator Carol M. Browner announced last week, her agency will revoke five exemptions it had previously granted for potentially carcinogenic pesticides and will turn down requests for 16 more. However, she added, "We continue to believe that the pesticides affected...pose only a negligible risk to public health."

"It is critical for consumers to understand that this is a legal issue, not a food safety issue," asserts Jay J. Vroom, president of the National Agricultural Chemicals Association in Washington, D.C. Foods that had been protected with these products "are safe to eat," he maintains.

But EPA may yet get back its de minimis exemptions to the Delaney clause if legislation introduced on April 1 by Reps. Richard H. Lehman (D-Calif.), Thomas J. Bliley Jr. (R-Va.), and J. Roy Rowland (D-Ga.) becomes law. Their bill already has more than 80 bipartisan cosponsors.
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Title Annotation:Agricultural Department, Food and Drug Administration and Environmental Protection Agency will no longer grant pesticide-use exemptions that violate 1958 amendment to the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act
Author:Raloff, Janet
Publication:Science News
Article Type:Brief Article
Date:May 15, 1993
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