On March 25, 2014 the news provider LifeSciences published an op-ed piece by the Natural Resources Defense Council’s (NRDC) Executive Director Peter Lehner arguing that Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS) substances added to food may be “anything but” safe. With the U.S. being the biggest consumer of processed foods, Lehner argues that the current American diet is inherently unhealthy and made worse by the use of GRAS substances which have not been reviewed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Under the GRAS regulation, manufacturers may carry out their own safety assessment and the FDA is often not notified when new chemical additives enter the market, resulting in a lack of regulatory oversight. Lehner points out that some additives declared GRAS by manufactures have been associated with fetal leukemia, testicular degeneration and allergic reactions. In his article, Lehner calls upon the U.S. Congress to close the GRAS loophole so that the FDA may identify chemical additives and adequately protect public health. At the same time the FDA needs to end the inherent conflicts of interest present in the current system, Lehner stresses. He argues that the food system should encourage the consumption of fresh and locally grown foods rather than processed and packaged food. Lehner concludes that while the current food system is unsustainable, it is not unfixable and stresses that through strong, health protective policies responsible agencies should encourage private companies to shift towards more sustainable practices.
NRDC (April, 2014). “Fed up with our dysfunctional food system.”