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Food safety

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A news item in Nature reports:

Food additives boost flavour, enliven colour and stretch the shelf lives of everyday edibles. But the experts who gauge the additives’ safety often have suspect ties to food manufacturers, according to a study.

More than 35% of additives deemed harmless between 1997 and 2012 were evaluated by employees of food manufacturers or by consultants the companies selected, researchers report today in JAMA Internal Medicine.

“It raises a number of questions,” says chemical engineer Thomas Neltner, the study’s lead author and the director of the food-additives project at the Pew Charitable Trusts in Washington DC. He and his colleagues say that their work shows a need for better oversight of additives by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which currently allows manufacturers to decide for themselves whether their products are safe to eat.

The team examined safety notices voluntarily submitted to the FDA by food manufacturers between 1997 and 2012. The filings informed the agency that a manufacturer considered an additive to be ‘generally recognized as safe’ (GRAS) and would use the substance in foods. Such decisions are supposed to be based on safety studies in which lab rats are fed the additive, and the FDA can question the decision.

But, Neltner explains, manufacturers are not required to notify the FDA when they make a GRAS decision or start using a new additive. His team estimates that manufacturers have not informed the FDA about 1,000 additives that are currently used in foods.

Michael Hansen, a senior scientist with the Consumers Union based in Yonkers, New York, says that the fact that food manufacturers are allowed to self-approve additives without informing the FDA is unacceptable.

What gives me pause is the thought that safety standards in the US are somewhat more stringent than in India.

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Written by Arhopala Bazaloides

August 15, 2013 at 6:54 am

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