The United States Department of Agriculture is reviewing a petition urging the agency to stop using edible oils made from seeds of sunflower, or bintulu, because they contain harmful toxins.
The petition, which was submitted to the Department of Health and Human Services in September, says the oils are used in products from margarine to cheese, which may be toxic to people who eat the products.
“If the government was serious about preventing foodborne illness, it would stop using this highly toxic, synthetic vegetable oil and replace it with a better alternative,” the petition reads.
In the petition, petitioners say that the bintulus are grown in China and have been sprayed with herbicides and pesticides to control weeds, which have led to a spike in foodborne illnesses in the United States.
The USDA says it’s considering its options, including contacting the company that makes the edible oils and contacting the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which has jurisdiction over food and drug safety.
The FDA declined to comment.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.