Friday, March 26, 2010


Thousands of food adjuncts are used world over for improving different quality aspects of foods and each country has its own set of regulations that govern the use of these processing aids. International Standards Organization, WHO-FAO Alimentarius Commission and International Chemical Codex all have their own guidelines for use of additives in foods. But the Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS) list approved by the FDA of the US is by far the most referred guide by many industries when using new substances in formulation of food products. That the GRAS list is not reviewed seriously in the light of newer findings is a reason for alarm.

"FDA is not systematically ensuring the continued safety of current GRAS substances," according to the summary of findings. This lack of oversight goes against FDA regulations, which require the agency to reconsider the GRAS status of a substance as new scientific information emerges. Not only is the agency not reviewing the safety of GRAS additives, but it has not responded to a series of petitions from consumer groups over certain substances. Individuals and consumer groups submitted 11 petitions between 2004 and 2008, expressing concerns on salt, partially hydrogenated oils, and other substances, and FDA has only definitively responded to one".

Safety of substances added to foods for various purposes is of paramount importance and no price is too high for exercising vigilance in this area. With millions of words published every year on scientific studies from different parts of the world, consumers may find it difficult to remove "chaff from the grain" and come to any conclusion regarding the effect of various additives present in the food they consume. In stead of each country working piecemeal on this important subject, it is preferable to go for a global joint effort sharing the cost involved in establishing the safety of food additives on agreed protocols.

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