Media Coverage

''Who Determines Safety of New Food Ingredients?''


"Grocery shoppers examining colorful packages bearing long lists of hard-to-pronounce ingredients might take comfort in the belief that those substances were deemed safe by the government.

They might also believe that some federal agency must, at least, be notified when a new substance enters the U.S. food supply.

But that's not the case.

Over the past 15 years, the vast majority of new ingredients added to U.S. food never received a safety determination from the government. And since 1958, at least 1,000 legally entered the food supply without the knowledge of government officials, according to the Pew Health Group.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration acknowledges that since 1997, it has largely transferred the responsibilities for pre-market safety determinations on ingredients — including flavorings, preservatives, texturizers and binders — from its own scientists to food manufacturers."

...

"Last year, the Pew Health Group added to the debate by publishing a report with estimates on the number of substances the FDA has reviewed (7,000) since 1958, those it hasn't (3,000) and those it has never been notified about (1,000). These include ingredients added directly to food but also indirect ingredients, which come into contact with food during processing and in packaging.

Pew plans to publish more studies in coming months focusing on how other countries treat U.S. GRAS ingredients and how the program deals with conflicts of interest between scientists and manufacturers, among other topics.

Although Pew researchers acknowledge that the 1997 rule change encouraged more manufacturers to submit notifications about new ingredients to the FDA, very few of those manufacturers ask for an FDA review, preferring to make their own determinations. The change also limits the opportunity for the public to provide input on new ingredients.

"The FDA no longer writes specific regulations for the use of the substance or puts those rules up for public comment by consumers, academics and competitors," said Tom Neltner, who heads the Pew Health Group project."

...

"Neltner advises consumers to consider the source when making food decisions.

"Ask yourself if you can trust that company, because it ultimately comes down to them making the safety decisions," he said.

"Do they see themselves in it for the long term or short term? Some take their responsibilities very seriously and are very conscientious and are going to be very careful. But it's also a global market out there today."

Full article

Date added:
Aug 27, 2012

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