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.