Key Findings for the Center's Big Food investigation

Key findings:

  • A loophole in a 57-year-old law allows companies to declare their ingredients are “generally recognized as safe” — and add them to foods without ever even telling federal regulators.
  • Consumers regularly eat foods with added flavors, preservatives and other ingredients that are secretly added by companies and not reviewed for safety by regulators.
  • Companies may market additives that the Food and Drug Administration says could pose safety risks.
  • Some scientists argue companies shouldn’t be allowed to make food safety determinations without FDA oversight because identifying certain ingredients’ potential long-term health effects becomes nearly impossible.
  • Five years after the Government Accountability Office criticized the FDA’s limited oversight of food additives — and recommended six actions to improve it — the FDA has acted on just one of them.
  • Food safety decisions are often made by a small group of scientific experts repeatedly hired by companies or consultants with a financial incentive to market new ingredients. Several of these scientists have previously served as scientific consultants for tobacco companies.