Thursday, July 2, 2015

GRAS Vs GRAS-The great food additives deception on the consumer

Can any normal person be proud to be an American to day when it comes to food safety and medical services prevalent in that country? Of course on many counts Americans can hold their heads high due to their hard working, generally honest and efficient way of life styles developed over a period of two centuries. With economic might and free enterprise spirit, there appears to be a shift in the power from the average citizen to the military-industry complex that emerged after world war II. This is more than amplified by the power and economic muscle of vested interests that lord over the citizen to day. The nexus between powerful industrial lobbies with least concern for the well being of their people and vote garnering politicians is too apparent in every sphere of activity in that country. Read the report below about the behavior of food industry in that country and how effective or ineffective is the food safety vigilance system there putting the health of the citizens in great jeopardy. Reference here is about the so called GRAS system of allowing hundreds of chemicals with questionable safety record being allowed to be used by the food safety administration agency in the US. 

"When President Eisenhower signed the Food Additives Amendment of 1958, he established a regulatory program intended to restore public confidence that chemicals added to foods are safe. In the intervening 56 years, the basic structure of the law has changed little. However, the regulatory programs the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) established to implement the law have fallen behind over time as the agency strived to keep up with the explosion in the number and variety of chemicals in food, and to manage its huge workload with limited resources. The 1958 law exempted from the formal, extended FDA approval process common food ingredients like vinegar and vegetable oil that are "generally recognized as safe" (GRAS). It may have appeared reasonable at the time, but that exemption has been stretched into a loophole that has swallowed the law. The exemption allows manufacturers to make safety determinations that the uses of their newest chemicals in food are safe without notifying the FDA. The agency's attempts to limit these undisclosed GRAS determinations by asking industry to voluntarily inform the FDA about their chemicals are insufficient to ensure the safety of our food in a global marketplace with a complex food supply. Furthermore, no other developed country in the world has a system like GRAS to provide oversight of food ingredients. Why Did Companies Forgo the FDA Notification Review Process  Because of the apparent frequency with which companies make GRAS safety determinations without telling FDA, NRDC undertook a study to better understand companies' rationale for not participating in FDA's voluntary notification program. First, we built a list of companies and the chemicals they made. Then we reviewed public records, the company websites, and trade journals to identify chemicals that appear to be marketed in the U.S. pursuant to an undisclosed GRAS determination, i.e. without notification to the FDA. All told, we were able to identify 275 chemicals from 56 companies that appear to be marketed for use in food based on undisclosed GRAS safety determinations. This is likely the tip of the iceberg -- we previously published in an industry journal an estimate that there have been 1,000 such undisclosed GRAS determinations. For each chemical we identified in this study, we did not find evidence that FDA had cleared them. In addition, using the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), we obtained from the FDA copies of communications between the agency and companies who voluntarily sought agency review of their GRAS determinations. We found that this glimpse into the review process shows that often the agency has had serious concerns about the safety of certain chemicals, and that companies sometimes make safety decisions with little understanding of the law or the science. As discussed later, companies found their chemicals safe for use in food despite potentially serious allergic reactions, interactions with common drugs, or proposed uses much greater than company-established safe doses. On those occasions when the FDA is asked to review a GRAS determination, the agency rejects or triggers withdrawal of about one in five notices. Moreover, the public has even less information about the many substances with GRAS determinations that are never submitted to the agency in the first place -- and which may pose a much greater danger. It is often virtually impossible for the public to find out about the safety -- or in many cases even the existence -- of these chemicals in our food. NRDC believes that"Generally Recognized as Secret" rather than "Generally Recognized as Safe" is a better name for the GRAS loophole. A chemical cannot be "generally recognized as safe" if its identity, chemical composition, and safety determination are not publicly disclosed. If the FDA does not know the identity of these chemicals and does not have documentation showing that they are safe to use in food, it cannot do its job. In an increasingly global marketplace where many additives and foods are imported into the United States, this loophole presents an unsettling situation that undermines public confidence in the safety of food and calls into question whether the FDA is performing its duty to protect public health. The problem is rooted in a law adopted in 1958 when Eisenhower was president and Elvis was drafted. It is time for the FDA and Congress to fix the problems. In the meantime, consumers need to demand that their grocery stores and their favorite brands sell only those food products with ingredients that the FDA has found to be safe."

One has to be sympathize with the condition prevailing in that country in spite of stringent laws that exist on the statute books. No where else in the world the food manufacturers are given free hand in deciding what chemical is to be added based on flimsy scientific data sourced from within or from doubtful sources. It is true to redefine GRAS as secret list of chemicals used by the industry without proving they are safe. Can this continue for long? Citizens must raise their voice against such an obnoxious system that controls their lives. Compared to USA, EU countries are some what better off as there is better governance as far as safety monitoring is concerned. It is time that all GRAS additives are brought under a critical scanner and compel the industry to use only those found to be safe through impeccable scientific scrutiny.


No comments: