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FDA says vinegar using synthetic acetic acid liable for ‘mislabeling’

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PHILSTAR

THE Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will revoke the registration of vinegar makers found to have used synthetic acetic acid for “misdeclaration,” amid reports that some brands synthesized their ingredients rather than use natural materials like sugarcane.

In a statement Tuesday, FDA Officer in Charge Director Ronaldo Enrique M. Domingo said that even if the synthetic acetic acid is safe for human consumption, the issue facing these manufacturers is false claims made with regard to the base ingredient.

Chemically, vinegar is typically composed of at least 4% acetic acid.

“Synthetic acetic acid may not be harmful per se, but products using such chemicals shall have their registration with the FDA revoked for misdeclaration,” he said.

Earlier this month, the Department of Science and Technology’s Philippine Nuclear Research Institute (DoST-PNRI) reported most vinegar products in the market are “fake” because they are made from synthetic acetic acid.

Using of isotope-based analytical techniques, the DoST found eight out of 10 of the 360 samples tested by the DoST-PNRI where found to have used synthetic forms of the chemical. They did not release the names of these brands.




Vinegar made from synthetic acetic acid did not go through the natural process of fermentation. Having synthetic matter in vinegar speeds up the process of its fermentation and is technically considered adulterated for food safety purposes.

FDA standards require vinegar to be a natural product undergoing natural fermentation.

Mr. Domingo said that the FDA is teaming up with the DoST-PNRI “for the submission of the results of the analysis, while continuously subjecting vinegar products for testing.”

Department of Agriculture (DA) Secretary Emmanuel F. Piñol said he is directing the Bureau of Agriculture and Fisheries Standards (BAFS)to create standards for vinegar. The proposed standard will also require vinegar sold on the market to be naturally fermented.

“Any other product which offers the ‘sour’ taste but is not a product of a natural fermentation process should be properly labeled as such — synthetic acetic acid or a “sour non-biogenic” condiment. Thus, it is my position as Secretary of Agriculture that sour condiments made out of synthetic or non-biogenic acetic acid should not be labeled as “vinegar” or “suka,” he said in a social media post Tuesday.

The DA had an inter-agency meeting with the FDA, DoST-PNRI, and the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) to discuss the issue. The meeting led to the review of the Department of Health’s Administrative Order (AO) No. 123 issued in 1970, which regulates vinegar quality. — Gillian M. Cortez

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