Between 1997 and 2012, the FDA reportedly received 451 voluntary notifications about new food additives, 100 percent of which came from individuals and groups connected in one way or another to the food industry. Rather than be accompanied by independent safety research, every single one of these new additives came with "safety data" conjured by the companies that produce them, a serious conflict of interest that apparently has become the standard rather than the exception.
Researchers from The Pew Charitable Trusts (PCT), a non-profit organization serving the public interest, decided to review data on the new food additive notification process after the Government Accountability Office (GAO), a federal watchdog agency, issued a report back in 2010 raising concerns about it. And what they found is astounding, particularly as it pertains to public health and safety.
Building upon a previous study they conducted of a similar nature, Thomas Neltner and his colleagues determined that roughly 43 percent of the 10,000 additives currently allowed in food are on the FDA's GRAS list, which means they are "generally recognized as safe." The other 57 percent, according to the data, were approved through other means, or never submitted or approved at all. And practically all of them lack independent analysis to verify their safety.
"Rules governing the chemicals that go into a tennis racket are more stringent than (rules for) the chemicals that go into our food," said Neltner regarding the findings. "At least when you put a new chemical on the market, you have to notify the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency). But there's no requirement that you notify the FDA when you make a new food additive."
Food additive companies not even required to submit GRAS requests to FDA
In order for a new food additive to be included on the GRAS list, its manufacturer is supposed to furnish the FDA with sound scientific evidence that it is actually safe, a process that obviously has its own inherent limitations and biases. But the fact of the matter is that food additive companies are not required to do this -- it is a completely voluntary process that allows the processed food industry to call the shots when it comes to food additive safety.
"In 1958, Congress gave additive manufacturers the right to decide on their own what food additives were GRAS without FDA being involved," writes Elizabeth Weise for USA Today about the scam. "Companies are not required to tell the agency when they've decided an additive is safe. If they choose to do so voluntarily, the company submits a letter to FDA outlining the scientific literature that supports its decision."
So naturally, food additive manufacturers have largely chosen to avoid the process altogether, as it really does not matter whether or not they notify the FDA about the use of new food additives. As a result, an overwhelming 99 percent of all food additives currently in use are either untested, were never submitted to the FDA at all or were submitted by industry insiders along with industry-funded safety data. In other words, the fox is guarding the hen house when it comes to food additive safety, as there is little-to-no credible oversight governing what millions of trusting Americans feed their families.
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