A government watchdog report says federal food regulators need new authority to take certain actions on the packaging used in the nation's grocery stores and restaurants.
Food processing and packaging can introduce nonfood substances, such as those used in greaseproof takeout containers or the lining of metal cans, into food, which may pose health risks. But even as new information becomes available showing that a substance may pose a health risk after FDA previously approved its use, FDA doesn’t have the authority to require companies to provide additional information to re-evaluate the safety of the substances.
A new Government Accountability Office (GAO) report suggested the FDA commissioner direct the agency to track the dates of the last pre- and postmarket reviews for all food contact substances in a way that allows the FDA to readily identify substances that may warrant postmarket review. Outside stakeholders have raised concerns that some of the substances may, by themselves or in combination with other substances, contribute to adverse health effects, such as thyroid disease and hormone disruption.
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Since 2000, FDA has helped to stop the use of three types of unsafe substances, such as some per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) that are used to greaseproof food packages.
FDA does not have the specific legal authority to compel companies to provide information and data on substances' safety and extent of use. “FDA needs such information to prioritize and conduct postmarket reviews,” GAO said. FDA neither agreed nor disagreed with the recommendation.
GAO recommended FDA track the dates of the last reviews for all food contact substances to allow the agency to readily identify substances that may warrant postmarket review. FDA agreed with this recommendation.
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