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Center for Food Safety Criticizes Latest Move by Food Industry to Minimize Oversight of Food Additives

September 2nd, 2014
Center for Food Safety

Grocery Manufacturers initiative is inadequate, cannot replace needed regulation by FDA

September 2, 2014 (Washington, DC) – Center for Food Safety today expressed disappointment in the Grocery Manufacturer Association’s (GMA) proposed changes  to the food industry’s process in assessing the safety of food additives.  The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has stated its support of GMA’s initiative, however, food safety advocates remain critical of the agency’s minimal role in assessing food additives.

“We applaud any move towards more transparency in the nation’s food system and GMA’s attempt to address the deeply flawed food-safety system, but its proposal falls far short of addressing some of the key concerns over the safety of food additives,” said Donna Solen, senior attorney for Center for Food Safety.

“While industry initiative and cooperation is integral to ensuring the safety of food ingredients, it is not an acceptable substitute for government regulation.  The stakes are simply too high in the area of food safety to allow industry to fill a void left by FDA,” said Solen. “For nearly twenty years FDA has failed to even finalize the regulations that govern GRAS substances, and this is another example of its inaction in this key realm of public health. FDA oversight is essential to ensuring the safety of the nation’s food.”

In particular, CFS raised the following concerns:

  • GMA’s initiative applies only to future food additives. It does not address the estimated 1000 self-affirmed GRAS additives already in our foods, which will continue to remain secret.  Moreover, it does not describe how a product can be taken off the GRAS list if future studies show that the ingredient is not safe for consumption.
  • GMA is establishing a GMA-sponsored database that will list information on all GRAS assessments conducted by the food industry but it has not yet defined how the public will be involved in this process, or what information will be made publicly available. It is without question that all information relating to the safety and toxicology of food ingredients must be made public. GMA does not promise to make this database open to the public.
  • GMA’s proposed plan is “mandatory” among its own members, but does not account for nonmembers, and membership within GMA itself is completely voluntary. Thus, it is unknown what percentage of manufacturers of the food available on our supermarket shelves will even adhere to these mandates.

In February, Center for Food Safety (CFS) filed a lawsuit against the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) over the agency’s failure to protect the public from dangerous food additives by failing to follow legal rulemaking requirements.  For more than 15 years, under a proposed rule that has never been finalized, FDA has allowed food manufacturers to use a fast-track process for determining whether an additive is “generally recognized as safe” (GRAS).

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