Thursday, September 5, 2013


Who is overseeing the activities of the food processing industry in each country? There are designated agencies vested with legal powers and responsibilities to regulate the manufacturers so that citizen's health is not compromised. Such agencies have to evolve scientific standards, methodologies for testing and exercise vigilance over the market. No doubt it is a gigantic task requiring adequate personnel with right background and high quality infrastructure. Most of all it requires a will, determination and commitment on the part of the safety agencies to perform this onerous task. In reality what is happening is a systematic shirking of this responsibility in connivance with the food processing industry which stands to benefit financially through exorbitant profits by diluting standards and safety parameters systematically. Here is an expose about the lackadaisical approach of the Government in the US and consequently the potential dangers faced by the helpless citizens in that country.  

"As the new JAMA analysis shows, even when they choose to inform the agency, those notifications are made by people with a "vested interest" in the industry whose products they are evaluating. About 22 percent of the 451 additive safety notices that were submitted to the FDA between 1997 and 2012 were drafted by an employee of the food additive manufacturer itself. An additional 13 percent were written by consultants that work with firms hired by the food industry. The remainder of the notifications were written by panels of food safety experts — but every single one of those panels' members were hand-picked either by the food industry or consultants working for the food industry. Additives that can't preemptively be considered GRAS, such as food coloring and preservatives, are subject to higher standards of scrutiny. Food companies must submit relevant data about possible harmful effects, chemical composition, and any investigations surrounding the additive's safety to the FDA. But the FDA-issued guidelines regarding the proper level and method of testing for these products aren't legally binding for food corporations. So if a substance — GRAS or otherwise — is eventually found to be harmful, the FDA has to wait until there is clear evidence of its harmfulness before it can pull its approval, work to revoke its GRAS notification, initiate a recall, or institute reforms such as limiting how much of the substance may be put into food. Even these steps may be met with fierce resistance from the corporate food lobby, which stymied labeling requirements for deadly trans fats for a decade and continues to fight proposed limitations on salt content. These lapses in oversight — and the evidence indicating that the food industry is in essence self-regulated — led the JAMA researchers to call for major reforms. The authors write that the FDA should bar people with ties to the food industry from submitting GRAS or additive safety notifications, move from a voluntary system of GRAS notifications to one that requires companies to inform the FDA whenever they determine a substance to be GRAS, have corporations report conflicts of interest when it comes to assessing an item's food safety, and release all relevant information to the public". 

Conceded that in order to sustain the food industry there has to be minimum interference and intervention by government authorities but former has to keep in mind the well being of the consumers upper most. Profit at any cost is just not acceptable when it comes to operating in a society which provides bread and butter to the industry. It is galling to see how much freedom is given to food industry in this country, even leaving the responsibility of developing standards and safety protocols to them to decide. Probably the powerful lobbying interests are checkmating every government move to better the standards and safety of foods, fearing adverse impact on their bottom line. Self regulation is a wonderful thing but it rarely works effectively because safety issues are always debated ad naseum  with no consensus leaving the issues unresolved endlessly benefiting the industry by allowing to practice what they consider desirable from their view. The labeling campaign for GMO foods is the most classical example of prevarication by the government and the extraordinary clout the industry enjoys with the government. This situation must end, if American citizens who consume as much as 80% of their diet made up of packed foods, are to be liberated from the tyranny of the food industry, controlled mostly by a few giant monopolistic monoliths!

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