PNRI Denies Saying Non-Fermented Acetic Acid Are Cancerous; 15 ‘Suka’ Brands Under Probe for Mislabeling

(SDN) — THE 15 vinegar brands found by the Philippine Nuclear Research Institute (PNRI) to be “fake” are “not exactly unsafe.”

CNN Philippines made a report on its website regarding the issue about the 15 brands, quoting government officials from the Department of Health (DOH), Department of Science and Technology (DOST) through its Philippine Nuclear Research Institute (PNRI) on Monday, May 20.

However, an investigation by a government inter-agency team on the said brands is being conducted for “mislabeling” their “suka” (vinegar) products.

Earlier, a head researcher of the PNRI in news reports was quoted as saying that vinegar products made from synthetic acetic acid can “various degenerative diseases.”

This was denied by Dr. Carlo Arcilla, director of the PNRI.

“We have not stated that the non-fermented acetic acid are cancerous. That is just a speculation or even a misrepresentation of the comments,” Arcilla told CNN Philippines.

“Ang problema doon ay kung ano ang kahalo niya (The problem is what’s mixed into the acid). When you manufacture synthetic acetic acid, there will be some by-products and that will have to be taken away. ‘Yung purity as food grade has to be ascertained and also labeled in the product,” Arcilla added.

Dr. Carlo Arcilla

PNRI Director Dr. Carlo Arcilla. (Image:

He said the PNRI only made a conclusion on which vinegar products are natural or artificial, saying it’s the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that has the capability to determine if the synthetic ones pose health risks or not.

DOH Undersecretary and Spokesman Eric Domingo explained what separates “genuine” vinegar and “fake” vinegar products.

“‘Yun kasing synthetic acetic acid, ‘pag ginamit siya sa vinegar, then we consider it as adulterated product. It’s not necessarily unsafe, kaya lang ang vinegar na for human consumption sa ating batas, naka-define siya as acetic acid from natural fermentation,” he said.

(When you use synthetic acetic acid for vinegar, we consider it as adulterated product. It’s not necessarily unsafe, but under our laws, vinegar for human consumption is defined as acetic acid from natural fermentation.)

Earlier, Raymond J. Sucgang, chief of the PNRI Nuclear Analytical Techniques Applications Section, described the risks of petrochemical by-products like a synthetic acetic acid from which 15 “suka” brands were made from.

“One can only imagine all the impurities and residues from the petroleum by-products, which can be the source of various degenerative diseases,” he said.

In later separate interviews with GMA7 News and SDN — Science and Digital News, Sucgang claimed that synthetic acetic acid can cause cancer, attributing his claim to some journals. He did not named the journals.

But as Domingo asserted, synthetic acetic acid is not necessarily unsafe, while Arcilla denied having the PNRI said it was cancerous.

The PNRI’s tests on the 17 brands with only three found to be not  using synthetic acetic acid were made using nuclear technology, particularly Isotope-based technique.

Sugarcane vinegar of IndiaMART

Sugarcane vinegar. Image: IndiaMART.

Domingo, on the other hand, per the CNN Philippines report, revealed that the Food and Drug Administration (DOH-FDA) has in its list 274 registered vinegar products. All of them should be of natural ingredients (like coconut and sugarcane).

“At the current concentration, wala naman tayong alam na masamang effect ng acetic acid whether natural or synthetic siya. Kaya lang, hindi lang siya ang dapat na component ng pagkain (we don’t know of a negative side effects of acetic acid whether natural or synthetic. But it should not be the only component of food),” the DOH official, now the officer-in-charge of the FDA.

He added that if the said brands were declared as natural, that should be the actual content. Mislabeling is not allowed.

DA Sec Manny PinolAgriculture Secretary Manny Piñol.

In relation with this controversy, Department of Agriculture (DA) Secretary Emmanuel “Manny” Piñol suggested pulling out of the market the 15 “fake” vinegar brands.

The Mindanao government official called a meeting among the DA, DOST, DOH and the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) to get to the  bottom of the issue on the synthetic vinegar products. (SDN)

6 thoughts on “PNRI Denies Saying Non-Fermented Acetic Acid Are Cancerous; 15 ‘Suka’ Brands Under Probe for Mislabeling

  1. I agree with Sec. Pinol to act, inspect and remove all violators. We should follow the law. The other government agencies are just doing what task they are assigned to and giving their expert opinion. Scientific community are not against the probe or the analysis. We are PRO on using radiocarbon dating. Our problem is how it was handled and delivered in the media. Poor decision making is the issue, not the science (well except for Mr. Sugcang misstatements on synthetic acetic acid) or the policy.

    1. Hi Doc, sorry, very late reply. Yes, I wonder why some experts were saying there is no need to pull out the “fake suka” brands, if the manufacturers really did violate the law by offering synthetic acetic acid as “suka” when it is not. Did they not violate the law that says vinegar should be naturally-fermented from coconut, or sugarcane? Meaning non-natural runs counter and breaches the law.

      Is there something we don’t know? Kid gloves treatment for violators, if they really violated the law on producing vinegar from natural sources?

      I would be sending you some Qs for a possible follow up story.

      It would be great to know their basis for saying synthetic acetic acid is not really unsafe to health (from DOH official and chemist). Are there definitive studies pro- and con-health benefits? What about Mr. Sucgang’s statement, his basis for saying it’s cancerous is from some journals. Can we find these journals, are you familiar with any of these so-called journals?

      My Qs would be in the line of these thoughts.


      1. Posted on Manny Piñol FB page

        In the name of Transparency!


        Submitted by Dr. Vivencio Mamaril
        Director, Bureau of Agriculture and Fisheries Standards
        Department of Agriculture

        The Inter-Agency Meeting which discussed the raging issue of “fake” vinegar in the Philippine markets was held yesterday at the Bureau of Agriculture and Fisheries Standards (BAFS) office of the Department of Agriculture (DA).

        In attendance were- DA-BAFS, DA-Office of the Asst. Secretary for Regulations, Department of Health-Food and Drug Administration, Department of Science and Technology-Philippine Nuclear Research Institut, and Department of Trade and Industry-Consumer Protection Office.

        Highlights of the meeting:

        The PNRI reported the following:

        1. Their research started in 2000 and semi-completed in 2003 due to financial constraints;

        2. The research was continued in 2017 when they had funding from DOST-PCIERD;

        3. The objective of the study is to develop and validate a procedure that will determine the presence of synthetic acetic acid in vinegar;

        4. Their research is not published nor peer-reviewed;

        5. They submitted their 2003 research findings to FDA and allegedly, FDA din not reply, and at the end PNRI decided to go public disclosing their findings from their 2017 research.

        Dr. Flerida Carino, a retired chemistry professor, Chemist and Toxicologist discussed at length during the meeting that the biogenic or non-biogenic acetic acid has no health issues and PNRI agreed.

        PNRI admitted that they were just over passionate to claim about the possible presence of contaminants in non-biogenic acetic acid po that may be carcinogenic or cause degenerative disease. Meaning, binawi nila and statement na ito po.

        Moving forward, the findings of the PNRI study will trigger the review and revision of the 1970 AO of DOH po.

        The DA reiterated the promotion of coco water to be used as the main ingredient for the production of vinegar.

        PNRI did not submit or disclose the brand names.

        DTI said that their only concern is the price.

        FDA can not name the brands pending the submission of PNRI’s full research which when submitted, FDA will subject to quality evaluation.

        Dr. Vivencio Mamaril
        Director, Bureau of Agriculture
        and Fisheries Standards, DA

      2. Thanks, Doc. I also saw an earlier post of the DA secretary about his desire to see the “fake” vinegar brands taken off the market. It seems other government agencies are wavering about this. If not taken out, would it not look like it is OK to violate government regulations?

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