In 1958, a little known clause in an amendment made a huge change in what we were eating. The Delaney Clause, as it was known, was slipped in as part of The Food Additives Amendment and the Color Additives Amendments, which prohibits the approval of any additive if it is found to induce cancer when ingested by people or animals, or if it is found, after tests which are appropriate for the evaluation of the safety of food additives, to induce cancer in people or animals. Any substance found to cause cancer is regulated under the general safety provisions of these laws, as well as by the Delaney Clause include a provision which prohibits the approval of an additive if it is found to cause cancer in humans or animals. This clause is often referred to as the Delaney Clause, named for its Congressional sponsor, Rep. James Delaney (D-N.Y.).
This was huge news, for advocates of ensuring safety in the foods we are. And in 1958, there was a lot to be concerned about. Due in large part to World War 2 and the need to preserve and maintain freshness in foods, particularly those which were rationed, an explosion of chemical additives were introduced to enhance color and preserve freshness over an extended period of time. A lot of additives weren’t safe – many contained carcinogens; a leading cause of Cancer. The Clause prohibited or discontinued their use in Consumer items, whether it was food or cosmetics.
Talking about the Delaney Clause and the effect it had on the consumer in this episode of the NPR radio series Options were Dr. Jacqueline Barrett, biochemist for the FDA, Ruth Desmond of Homemakers Inc. and Gilbert Goldhammer consultant for the House sub-committee and former FDA official.
In case you were wondering what happened and what the Delaney Clause was, and why it’s so important, especially now, here is that discussion, as it was first aired on January 22, 1975.