THE Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Tuesday identified five brands of vinegar found to have used synthetic acetic acid, in possible violation of food labeling rules which require vinegar producers to use fermented sugarcane and other such crops as their raw material.

The FDA issued FDA Advisory No. 2019-144 after fears about the “authenticity” of vinegar being sold to consumers first emerged last month after the Department of Science and Technology’s Philippine Nuclear Research Institute (DoST-PNRI) reported eight out of 10 of the 360 vinegar it tested are “fake,” failing to meet product standards that require vinegar sold on the market to be naturally fermented.

The FDA, in seeking to validate the PNRI report, said: “The FDA Laboratory tested 39 samples of vinegar collected from various sources and five of these… were found to contain synthetic acetic acid.”

Vinegar typically consists of 5-20% acetic acid. Vinegar that meets product standards is typically made from a natural raw material, suggesting that some brands have substituted lab-produced acetic acid.

The brands using syntehtic acetic acid are Surebuy Cane Vinegar; Tentay Pinoy-Style Vinegar; Tentay Premium Vinegar; Tentay Vinegar Sukang Tunay Asim’; and Chef’s Flavor Vinegar.

The FDA said such products are technically “adulterated” and cannot be sold as vinegar.

Last month, FDA Officer-in-Charge Director Ronaldo Enrique M. Domingo said that products found to have used synthetic matter to facilitate fermentation are at risk of having their FDA registration revoked for misdeclaration.

The FDA said however that synthetic acetic acid is not necessarily harmful. It added: “This only means that the vinegar is of substandard quality.”

Last month, Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel F. Piñol ordered the Bureau of Agriculture and Fisheries Standards (BAFS) to establish new norms for vinegar, explicitly that only products on the market that undergo natural fermentation can be labeled “vinegar.” — Gillian M. Cortez