One out of six ain't bad?

Five years ago, the Government Accountability Office said in a 70-page report about food additives that the “FDA’s oversight process does not help ensure the safety of all new” food ingredients. The report criticized the fact that companies can deem new added ingredients to be "generally recognized as safe" without even telling the FDA, leaving the agency in the dark about many ingredients that end up in foods and beverages.

The GAO recommended that the FDA take six actions to improve federal oversight of the GRAS system. Five years later, the agency has acted on just one of them. Here's a rundown:

GAO Recommendation FDA Action
“Develop a strategy to require any company that conducts a GRAS determination to provide FDA with basic information,” including the ingredient's identity and intended uses, and post the information on the agency's website. None
The FDA says it's prohibited by law from requiring companies to provide the government with information about its GRAS determinations, and if it did so "we would be sued," said Dennis Keefe, director of the FDA's Office of Food Additive Safety.
“Develop a strategy to minimize the potential for conflicts of interest in companies' GRAS determinations.” None
The FDA says it is drafting guidelines to minimize potential conflicts when food companies or their consultants hire scientists to review the safety of ingredients. The agency doesn't know when they will be finalized.
“Develop a strategy to monitor the appropriateness of companies' GRAS determinations through random audits or some other means.” None
The Center for Public Integrity asked the FDA if it has done any random audits of safety determinations since 2010. More than a month after receiving the questions, an FDA spokeswoman said the agency needs more time to answer.
“Develop a strategy to finalize” a 1997 proposed rule that defines how companies can voluntarily submit safety determinations to the FDA for a cursory review. Pending
The Center for Food Safety sued the FDA saying that operating under a proposal rather than a final rule meant that the agency is not bound by any time frame to review safety determinations. The FDA has since agreed to finalize the rule by August of 2016.
“Develop a strategy to conduct reconsiderations of the safety of GRAS substances in a more systematic manner” including responding to citizen petitions in a timely manner. None
The FDA has not conducted a comprehensive review of the safety of GRAS ingredients in more than 30 years and the GAO's Steve Morris says a new one is long overdue. The agency has also been slow to respond to citizen petitions challenging the safety of some GRAS ingredients and potentially ignoring emerging science that questions their safety.
“Develop a strategy to help ensure the safety of engineered nanomaterials that companies market as GRAS substances without the agency's knowledge.” Guidance
Last June, the FDA issued final guidance on nanotechnology, a new technology used to develop materials for use in food, food packaging and cosmetics that are so small they can't be seen with an ordinary microscope.