Many people presume that some federal agency is overseeing the safety of the ingredients in our food supply.
That’s not unreasonable, because that is actually what the federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is supposed to be doing, and what Congress told it to do in a 1958 law.
But since 1997, FDA has punted on that core responsibility, allowing companies to make their own secret determinations of a substance’s safety for use in our food.
The legal standard is supposed to be that an ingredient is “generally recognized as safe,” or GRAS. That originally applied to things like oil and vinegar—foodstuffs that are widely accepted as safe to consume. Now the loophole is swallowing the law: companies are deciding in secret that almost anything they want to put in food is GRAS, and FDA is letting them.
If companies decide a new ingredient is GRAS, they don’t have to tell FDA what their investigations show about safety or even tell the government what or how much of anything they have decided to add to food. In short, the food industry—not FDA—is in charge of what you eat.
What can you do about this shocking failure by FDA to do its job?
First, check out and share our great new infographic exposing the spaghetti-tangle of FDA’s failure to ensure the safety of food additives.
Then, join our campaign to strengthen FDA’s role on food safety and let them know how shocked and disappointed you are that they have fallen down on the job and put you at risk.
And stay tuned for more! We are working with the nation’s leading scientific and food safety authorities to reimagine the system for approving new ingredients, and calling on FDA to require companies to provide the agency with basic notice of what they are doing as a starting point for fixing the system.
With your help, we can fix this frightening problem. We won’t rest until FDA is once again ensuring the safety of our food supply.
Chief Regulatory Affairs Attorney
Center for Science in the Public Interest