It’s really beyond past the time to bust the myth that what gets sold to us has been scientifically determined to be safe for us.
Take food additives this time. Unless you are growing your own organic food, or have a lab in your back pocket, there’s no real way of knowing what the heck we are being sold and consuming.
“The food safety protection system is marred by minimal supervision by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, rife with apparent conflicts of interest in safety evaluations, and rendered all but toothless by a gaping loophole that allows companies to simply declare as safe hundreds of chemicals added to our foods—without any notification to the FDA or the public, according to an NRDC report”
For more information, please see:
- An exemption in a 1958 law intended for common food ingredients “generally recognized as safe” or “GRAS” has been stretched so most new chemicals pass through it: the loophole has swallowed the law.
- In an increasingly global marketplace where many additives and foods are imported into the United States, this loophole calls into question whether the FDA is performing its duty to protect public health.
- Consumers should demand that their grocery stores and their favorite brands sell only food products with ingredients that the FDA has found safe, and ask the FDA and Congress to make the necessary changes.
More than a few of us might take issue with that part about “only food products with ingredients that the FDA has found safe” because more than a few things they claim are safe, are not! More on that below.
“More troubling, companies are allowed to hire their own experts, which may be their own employees, to determine the safety of chemicals used in food. This can present a serious conflict of interest, especially when FDA does not review the GRAS decision, because the evaluators may have a financial incentive to provide positive results, according to NRDC’s report.
In four case studies, NRDC found that chemicals that were subject to a withdrawn GRAS notice have been listed as an ingredient in foods marketed to the public, despite FDA’s serious concerns about their safety. They are:
- Epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG): A company determined as safe for use in beverages including teas, sport drinks, and juices, despite FDA’s citation of evidence it may cause leukemia in fetuses in human cells tests and animal studies showing it affected the thyroid, testis, spleen, pituitary, liver, and gastrointestinal tract.
- Gamma-amino butyric acid (GABA): A company determined as safe for use in beverages, chewing gum, coffee, tea, and candy, despite FDA concerns that estimated exposure was well in excess of what the company itself considered safe.
- Sweet lupin protein, fiber, and flour: A company determined as safe for use in baked goods, dairy products, gelatin, meats, and candy, despite FDA-raised questions about whether or not the chemicals would cause serious allergic reactions in those with peanut allergies.
- Theobromine: A company determined as safe for use in bread, cereal, beverages, chewing gum, tea, soy milk, gelatin, candy, and yogurt and fruit smoothies, despite FDA’s question about the estimated consumption being five times higher than the safe consumption level reported by the company.
“The law places responsibility on FDA to ensure food Americans consume is safe. If the FDA is in the dark about the identity and safety of hundreds of chemicals, it cannot do its job. The “generally recognized as secret” loophole undermines public health,” said NRDC health scientist Maricel Maffini, the report’s coauthor.” …
A link to NRDC’s report, FOIA documents and a video about the GRAS issue is here:
…For new ingredients (or by legal terms, “substances”) to be added to food, companies must comply with the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act of 1938. Food Safety News points out that under the law, “Substances are added to food either as food additives or as GRAS. The difference between the two paths is significant: FDA must sign off on food additives, but companies can use GRAS substances without FDA approval. Notably, companies make their own GRAS determinations, which they may or may not voluntarily submit to FDA for review.”
In other words, industry is allowed to police itself when it comes to the safety of a significant number of ingredients added to the foods and beverages our families eat and drink every day.
…the FDA is being slowly starved of the resources and manpower required to fulfill its mandate. In the 1970s the agency conducted 35,000 inspections of food-processing plants each year. Today, it inspects fewer than 8,000, although the number of facilities under its jurisdiction has skyrocketed.
The FDA, like many government departments, is linked to the groups it regulates by a revolving door for senior employees. Michael Taylor, the current deputy commissioner for foods, was formerly a vice president of Monsanto. Mitchell Cheeseman, now a Washington, D.C., attorney representing food companies, was the acting director of the Office of Food Additive Safety.
Acheson says that the agency has a “huge problem with a lack of personnel, which is a direct consequence of a lack of money.” …
Lest we forget, the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) is also in charge of drug safety
The bar for “safe” is equally low, and over the past 30 years, approved drugs have caused an epidemic of harmful side effects, even when properly prescribed. Every week, about 53,000 excess hospitalizations and about 2400 excess deaths occur in the United States among people taking properly prescribed drugs to be healthier. One in every five drugs approved ends up causing serious harm,1 while one in ten provide substantial benefit compared to existing, established drugs. This is the opposite of what people want or expect from the FDA.
Prescription drugs are the 4th leading cause of death. Deaths and hospitalizations from over-dosing, errors, or recreational drug use would increase this total. American patients also suffer from about 80 million mild side effects a year, such as aches and pains, digestive discomforts, sleepiness or mild dizziness.
To answer the question I asked in the title, the answer seems to be:
safe for industries to profit even when causing harm!
Want to stay (or become) healthy?
Avoid petrochemicals, eat real food.
The system is broken, it has been taken over by corporations. People, it’s time to reclaim our power!
We must let industry and government know that they do not have our permission to profit while harming our health and well-being, and that we expect them to take whatever actions are necessary to ensure things really are safe before they are used, and to immediately stop using anything or doing anything that shows any indication of causing harm to life.
Life is fragile. Life is precious.