GMA announces industry initiative on food additive safety

By Daniel Enoch

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.



WASHINGTON, Aug. 28, 2014 - The Grocery Manufacturers Association says it is setting up a database of information on the chemicals commonly used in processed foods to ensure the Food and Drug Administration has access to information about ingredients the food industry determines to be “generally regarded as safe (GRAS).”

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The database is part of a five-part initiative announced today that GMA says will “advance the procedures used to assess the safety of ingredients used in food products.”

The move is considered a preemptive strike by GMA, whose members include some of the biggest U.S. food companies, as the FDA has been under pressure for years to be more proactive in its regulation of processed foods. For the most part, companies themselves approve the chemicals used in food, with the help of experts paid by the industry.

“Our industry is committed to providing consumers with safe, quality, affordable and innovative products,” Leon Bruner, GMA's chief science officer, said in a news release. “In the spirit of that ongoing commitment, today we are launching a modernization initiative that will improve the process and increase transparency for making Generally Recognized As Safe determinations of ingredients added to food.”

As part of its initiative, GMA said it will also take the lead in defining a standard that will provide clear guidance on how to conduct transparent state-of-the-art ingredient safety assessments. The procedures will help ensure GRAS assessments meet the regulatory requirements of the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act, it said. 

Additionally, GMA promised to expand its curriculum of GRAS education and training programs in order to increase the capability of scientists who make the GRAS assessments.

At least one consumer group was not impressed. Laura MacCleery, chief regulatory attorney for the Center for Science in the Public Interest, said that while the food industry may be congratulating itself for sharing a database of food additive safety studies with the FDA, “it is outrageous that FDA doesn't already have the identity, much less the safety data, of all substances added to the nation's food supply.”

MacCleery went onto say that an industry data base is no substitute for independent evaluations of “suspect additives” used in our food.

“We look forward to learning more about what the industry's database will have to say about problematic additives. But the FDA shouldn't treat this new database as if it's the last word.”

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