Today, Representative Rosa DeLauro introduced a bill directing the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to close the “Generally Recognized as Safe” (GRAS) food additive loophole. In 2017, Earthjustice, on behalf of the Environmental Defense Fund and the Center for Food Safety, challenged the GRAS exemption because it undermines the integrity of our food safety system. The decision on that case is pending. The GRAS exemption was initially created to cover ingredients that are widely known to be safe, such as vegetable oil, but has been applied in recent practice to novel chemicals and is now a loophole that has swallowed the law.
Chemical and food manufacturers often seek to add chemicals to processed food, typically to enhance flavor, add nutrients, or prevent spoilage. Chemicals also often leach into foods from processing equipment and packaging. Any substance designated under this category, whether by FDA or by a food or chemical company, can bypass the rigorous pre-market review and approval process applied to food additives. Under this bill, before new chemicals can be added to our food, companies will have to inform the FDA of their safety determinations. The FDA in turn will have to inform the public, and the public will be able to provide input. It also includes common-sense provisions that prohibit carcinogenic substances from being considered Generally Recognized as Safe, and prevent the agency from relying on experts with conflicts of interest when determining if a substance is GRAS.
The following is a statement from senior legislative representative Daniel Savery:
“Earthjustice strongly supports the Toxic Free Food Act of 2021, which will fix a system that allows an estimated 3,000 chemicals into our food that have never been scrutinized by the Food and Drug Administration. For decades, FDA has allowed companies to make safety determinations on their own and in secret. This must stop. There is no one better to champion this bill than Congresswoman DeLauro. Earthjustice is grateful for her leadership.”