FDA List of Banned Substances

FDA is an association built in the interest of public health and safety.
FDA is an association built in the interest of public health and safety. (Image: Comstock/Comstock/Getty Images)

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has banned a number of substances to enhance people’s safety. It has put these banned substances into different categories including drugs; medical devices; biologics, blood and vaccines; animal and veterinary; cosmetics and radiation-emitting products. Some substances are banned for the population at large, while others are banned for specific groups, such as athletes.


Ephedra is a substance found naturally in botanicals and its main active ingredient is ephedrine, which is a compound similar to amphetamine. Ephedrine can stimulate the heart and nervous system powerfully. Ephedra was a major ingredient in many dietary supplements intended to increase energy, enhance athletic performance and promote weight loss. The FDA officially banned ephedra on April 12, 2004, following studies that showed it posed unreasonable risk of injury or illness to consumers. The substance increases the risk of stroke and heart problems.

Flavored Cigarettes

Another thing the FDA has banned is flavored cigarettes. Flavoring makes cigarettes taste like different products, such as candy, clove and fruits. The principle behind the ban was the fact that flavored cigarettes encouraged young people to start smoking. According to the FDA, young people were two times more likely to see the adverts for flavored cigarettes, and the pleasant taste lured them to start using the products. Flavoring does not make the cigarettes any safer.

Banned Drugs in Sports

The drugs banned for use in sports are grouped into different categories, including stimulants, anabolic agents, diuretics and urine manipulators, street drugs, anti-estrogens, peptide hormones and analogues, as well as substances banned for specific products. Beta 2 agonists can only be used by inhalation. The use of local anesthetics is also permitted under special circumstances. No drug belonging to the prohibited classes may be used. Athletes should be careful with nutritional supplements because they can contain the banned substances.

Cosmetic Products and Ingredients

Cosmetic products are not usually subject to premarket approval by the FDA, except for color additives that are not coal-tar hair dyes. However, regulations specifically prohibit the use of these ingredients in cosmetics: bithionol (may lead to photo contact sensitization), chlorofluorocarbon propellants (in products meant for domestic consumption), chloroform (has animal carcinogenicity), Halogenated salicylanilides (may lead to photocontact sensitization), methylene chloride (has animal carcinogenicity), zirconium-containing complexes (have toxic effect on the lungs) and vinyl chloride (carcinogen).

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