Many people presume that some federal agency is overseeing the safety of the ingredients in our food supply. That’s reasonable, 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 the government to ensure our food is safe?
First, check out our great infographic exposing the spaghetti-tangle of FDA’s failure to ensure the safety of food additives.