“It’s FDA approved!”
“These ingredients are “Generally Recognized As Safe.”
“All food additives in our food supply go through rigorous safety testing before they are put on the market.”
How many times have you heard “experts” on TV say statements like these discussing controversial food additives that require warning labels or have been banned in other countries due to safety regulations?
There’s an implication out there that everything allowed in processed food – preservatives, artificial sweeteners, thickeners, stabilizers, emulsifiers – have gone through some sort of rigorous safety testing by the FDA proving they’re okay to eat – but in most cases they haven’t! And sometimes the FDA reviews an ingredient, deems it unsafe, and companies use a loophole to sneak the ingredients into our food supply anyways!
The Center For Public Integrity has just released a video and report you must see.
Their ground breaking investigation addresses the question: “How do new food ingredients get from the lab to your dinner table?” The process is much simpler that you might think.
It’s far too easy for food manufacturers to add their new chemical inventions to our food and this has become a huge problem. So huge in fact, that the Natural Resources Defense Council estimates that there are 1,000 additives in our food that have never received FDA approval and the FDA isn’t even aware that some exist!
The companies that create new food additives have two choices before putting it in our food:
Choice #1 – A company can submit a food additive petition with the FDA.
In this case, their ingredient will be extensively reviewed by the FDA. It can take several years (even decades!) before the FDA determines whether it will be approved. Since it takes so long, there is an alternative route that most companies take, hinging on a legal loophole on what qualifies as a “food additive”.
Choice #2 – A company can determine on their own that a new ingredient is “Generally Recognized as Safe” to avoid filing a petition.
Over 50 years ago, the FDA imposed a rule that if an ingredient is deemed “Generally Recognized as Safe” (GRAS) it is no longer considered a food additive and doesn’t need to be approved by them. The intention was to relieve the FDA from spending needless time and resources approving common ingredients, like vinegar.
This GRAS loophole has been abused and the food additive approval process is a fraud!
Companies can determine that their new ingredient is safe by hiring their own experts (sometimes their own employees), and bypass the FDA food additive petition process entirely. The company will inform the FDA only if they want to, as it’s completely voluntary. They have no legal obligation to tell the FDA, and can just start selling their new ingredients to the public.
Even worse, if a company does decide to inform the FDA and they don’t agree that it’s safe, food companies can withdraw their notification, leaving the doorway open.
For example, lupin ingredients are added with zero FDA oversight.
Lupin (a legume) can cause severe allergic reactions (sometimes leading to death), requiring an allergen warning label in Europe. The FDA reviewed a GRAS notification for ingredients made from lupin by the food manufacturer George Weston Foods in 2008. According to documents obtained by the National Resources Defense Council, the FDA didn’t agree that the ingredients were safe because people with peanut allergies could suffer life-threatening reactions to these lupin ingredients. George Weston Foods withdrew their notification, and later attempted to resubmit a notification but was advised by the FDA not to.
This didn’t keep lupin ingredients out of our food… all without warning labels too.
The Center for Public Integrity found foods containing lupin in grocery stores in the U.S. and none of them contained a warning label for people that suffer from peanut allergies.
What else you should know:
- Since the FDA allowed for the GRAS process the number of food additives has grown dramatically from about 800 to more than 10,000.
- Several of the scientific experts hired by companies to make GRAS determinations previously served as consultants to tobacco companies in the ’80’s and ’90’s.
- The panels that are hired to make GRAS determinations for companies are comprised of a relatively small group of scientists, which raises conflict of interest questions. There are 10 scientists that have served in 3/4 of these panels during the last 17 years, and one scientist has served on 41% of these panels.
- Researchers have found that the vast majority of food additives lack toxicity data, and almost 2/3 of them have no publicly available feeding data, making their safety to humans questionable.
- The Flavor and Extract Manufacturers Association approves new artificial and natural flavors as GRAS, however they lack transparency and publicly available data.
- The FDA admitted in an interview last year that they don’t have the information to vouch for the safety of many food chemicals.
- The experts from the Center for Science in the Public Interest, Consumers Union, Environmental Working Group and Natural Resources Defense Council filed an 80-page regulatory comment with the FDA this week, charging that the food additive approval process is illegal and fails to protect public health.
Please watch this 3 min video:
This is why we need to educate ourselves on food ingredients and demand more rigorous safety standards along with transparency from the companies that make them.
Some people say this type of information is “fearmongering”, but this information is scary. That is why it is so important, and thankfully I’m not the only one talking about it. This state of affairs we are in is not okay and obviously this needs to change.
Given where we are today, where 1 in 3 women will get cancer, and 1 in 2 men will, I think we need to look for answers on how to live healthier lives and break free from the downward spiral of disease our country is facing.
The majority of food additives that have been invented in the last few decades, have been created for the sole purpose to improve the bottom line of the food industry – not our health.
We are, objectively, a nation full of inexplicable illness. My job as an activist and consumer advocate will always be to look out for you. It’s my role and it’s all of our roles, to question this system that has become corrupted and is not, as designed, protecting the public.
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Spreading the word is the fastest way to raise awareness and change this broken system.