On April 26, 2016 U.S. Senator Edward J. Markey sent a letter to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) inquiring about “the agency’s strategy to ensure the safety of ingredients self-determined to be safe by food and beverage companies.” In the U.S., companies can self-designate food and beverage ingredients, as well as food contact substances, as “Generally Recognized as Safe” (GRAS) without review by the FDA. Companies also do not have to notify the FDA of their intent to use a self-designated GRAS ingredient. According to the press release of Senator Markey, approximately 1,000 chemicals are used in the food supply without having been reviewed by the FDA.

“The public assumes the FDA plays a pivotal role in assessing the safety of new food ingredients,” Markey writes. “Many would be shocked to learn that numerous ingredients are used in foods without ever being evaluated by the FDA, and furthermore, in many circumstances the FDA is not even aware such chemicals are being used unless a company voluntarily discloses that information,” Markey further states.

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Ed Markey (April 26, 2016). “Senator Markey highlights loophole in FDA’s oversight of ingredients used in food and beverages.

Edward J. Markey (April 26, 2016). Letter to Robert Califf of FDA. (pdf)