Friday, April 17, 2015

Let's call these ingredients "Sometimes Considered as Mostly Safe" (SCAMS)

New reports by the Center for Public Integrity and the Center for Science in the Public Interest suggest that some food ingredients have been falling through the cracks, with nobody in authority confirming that they are safe [slight edit 4/21].

By law, the federal government has long accepted food ingredients that are "Generally Recognized as Safe" (GRAS), without the need for elaborate testing. For example, GRAS rightly allows long-accepted ingredients such as vinegar to be used without unnecessary testing procedures.

The new reports note many examples where ingredients that are classified as GRAS have been allergenic, have been suspected of being carcinogens, or never were submitted for FDA review (becuase such review is sometimes optional). In some cases, ingredients were submitted for FDA review for consideration as GRAS, and then withdrawn because FDA had questions, but these ingredients ended up in the food supply anyway.

The Center for Public Integrity writes:
Critics of the system say the biggest concern, however, is that companies regularly introduce new additives without ever informing the FDA. That means people are consuming foods with added flavors, preservatives and other ingredients that are not at all reviewed by regulators for immediate dangers or long-term health effects.
Overall, most food safety officials with the companies involved quite probably are mostly confident the food ingredients are safe for most people (especially those without allergies), and felt it would be overkill to subject the ingredients to a large volume of testing. In most cases, the companies probably are correct.

In such cases, though, let's stop calling such food ingredients "GRAS." From now on, more truthfully, let's call new ingredients that lack FDA review: Sometimes Considered as Mostly Safe " (SCAMS).

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I agree that if the FDA isn’t going to regulate testing for ingredients being placed in our foods or increase the effort put into their reviews then these ingredients shouldn’t be considered “Generally Recognized as Safe” if they are affecting a large number of consumers. As a nutrition graduate student I have spent much of the semester learning about food policy and the food system. Although, I know it takes time to implement policy or that some battles are just not worth the fight because costs are too high, I think that not being transparent with consumers who purchase and eat these products every day about if the ingredients in their food are “safe” to consume will only result in negative outcomes. According to Food Allergy Research and Education, researchers estimate up to 15 million Americans have food allergies. They also state the number of people who have a food allergy is growing, but they can’t explain why. Who’s to say that the ingredients that end up in the food supply that were withdrawn by FDA review aren’t ingredients that are causing food allergies among millions? Consumers should have the right to know if what they are consuming is generally safe to the public or just sometimes considered mostly safe depending on the individual’s current health status. There is no reason that companies should be allowed to include any ingredient in their products without proper review by the FDA for short and long term health effects. I think a policy needs to be implemented to strictly enforce the number of FDA reviews done and specific protocols should be put in place for companies to follow on being reviewed and when elaborate testing on an ingredient should be done.