Ethan A. Huff
December 3, 2011
There are currently more than 10,000 chemical food additives permitted for use in foods today. But at least 3,000 of these have never undergone proper US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) safety reviews, and have instead essentially been “approved” for use by the chemical companies and food manufacturers that make and use them.
Before the mid-1990s, the FDA members of the public, as well as academic scientists and public interest groups, provided input on chemicals as part of the FDA review process — and the FDA actually took this input into consideration when conducting safety analyses and establishing regulatory guidelines.
But a lot changed when the FDA converted to an “expedited” approval process for food chemicals that effectively bypassed having to deal with any outsiders. Instead, the FDA now deals directly with food chemical companies and food manufacturers, who typically just provide their own “safety data” — and the FDA just takes their word on it and grants approval, in most cases.
“Congress established our food additive regulatory program more than 50 years ago, and it does not stand up well to scrutiny based on today’s standards of science and public transparency,” said Tom Nelter, Director of the Pew Health Group’s Food Additives Project, which uncovered the findings and published them in the journalComprehensive Reviews in Food Science and Food Safety.
“While the shift to a new regulatory process — one in which companies make safety decisions and ask FDA to confirm them — has sped up agency review, it has also bypassed the public … there is virtually no meaningful opportunity for participation in decisions about large classes of substances added to the food supply.”
TheSacramento Beereports that the FDA’s regulatory prowess has been stunted since as far back as the 1950s. TheFood Additives Amendment of 1958essentially made it legal for food chemical manufacturers to self-determine the safety of their own products and to begin using them without having to even notify the FDA.
Since food chemical manufacturers are also not required to let the FDA know when new published science exposes one of their already-in-use chemicals as unsafe, the agency must do this itself. But the agency routinely fails to do this, of course, and has a reputation for ignoring or discounting new science that contradicts its drug and chemical lobbyists anyway.
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This article was posted: Saturday, December 3, 2011 at 8:07 am