HC Deb 05 August 1976 vol 916 cc959-60W
Mrs. Joyce Butler

asked the Secretary of State for Prices and Consumer Protection to what extent chloroform and trichloroethylene are used in drugs, coffee and cosmetics in the United Kingdom; and what action she intends to take in regard to these additives in view of the ban on chloroform in drugs and cosmetics in the United States of America, and the proposed American ban on trichloroethylene in coffee, drugs and cosmetics.

Mr. Maclennan

Chloroform is used as a flavouring agent and also as a solvent for tenacious deposits in a minority of toothpastes. Trichloroethylene is not used in the manufacture of cosmetics in the United Kingdom. Drugs and coffee are the responsibility not of my Department, but of the Department of Health and Social Security and the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food respectively. I am advised, however, that trichloroethylene is used as a general anaesthetic. The hazards of its use are well known to anaesthetists, and a judgment is made for each individual patient as to whether this is an appropriate anaesthetic agent. Chloroform is included in small quantities in a large number of medicinal products as a preservative and flavouring agent. Both substances can also be used as solvents in the production of decaffeinated coffee. They are not used in the United Kingdom for this purpose, but some decaffeinated coffee containing residues of these solvents may be imported.

The recent carcinogenicity study on chloroform carried out by the National Cancer Institute in the United States of America is being evaluated by the relevant expert advisory committees together with data on other long-term studies. I am advised, however, that the American tests produced no clear evidence that chloroform in the amounts used at present constitutes any hazard to human health. In addition the Food Additives and Contaminants Committee is reviewing the regulations governing the presence of solvents in food, and will include chloroform and trichloroethylene in that review.