GENERALLY REGARDED AS SAFE
WHY G.R.A.S IS AN OUTDATED CONCEPT
As far as the FAA was concerned for food manufacturers, getting grandfathered in on the GRAS list (Generally Regarded As Safe) was everything. As long as a food additive was in wide use prior to 1958 with no known side effects or dangers, it made the list. For instance, this meant that things like salt and pepper were on the list. But it also meant that TRANS FATS, MSG, and any number of funky additives (nitates, nitrites, BHA, etc, etc) made the list as well. Although it's possible to remove things from this list that was originally about 700 substances long, it's not easy (why do you think it took until 2015 to remove trans fats?), and new foods are being added all the time, with less regulatory oversight than you might think. Hopefully this is changing.
Days ago, the journal Pediatrics published a position paper by the American Academy of Pediatrics titled Food Additives and Child Health, which questioned the way we've been doing GRAS. Here is the opening paragraph.
"Today, more than 10,000 chemicals are allowed to be added to food and food contact materials in the United States, either directly or indirectly, under the 1958 Food Additives Amendment to the 1938 Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act. Many of these were grandfathered in for use by the federal government before the 1958 amendment, and an estimated 1,000 chemicals are used under a 'generally recognized as safe' (GRAS) designation process without US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval. Yet, suggested in accumulating evidence from nonhuman laboratory and human epidemiological studies is that chemicals used in food and food contact materials may contribute to disease and disability. Children may be particularly susceptible to the effects of these compounds, given that they have higher relative exposures compared with adults (because of greater dietary intake per pound), their metabolic (ie, detoxification) systems are still developing, and key organ systems are undergoing substantial changes and maturation that are vulnerable to disruptions."
The gist of this study is that because we know more now than we did six decades ago when the original rules were written, there needs to be some re-testing performed. Why? because in a table of "foods" that were listed under GRAS, many are considered to be or cause (I am quoting here) "OBESIGENIC / ENDOCRINE DISRUPTORS, OXIDATIVE STRESS, IMMUNOSUPPRESSION, THYROID DISPRUPTORS, CARDIOTOXIC, CARCINOGENIC, and issues with NEURODEVELOPMENT". And that's just for starters. And while toxic chemicals are not good for anyone, children, without fully developed detoxification systems (BIOTRANSFORMATION SYSTEMS) get the short shrift. The paper ends with a list of things you can do to help your family avoid exposure.
Is this call to action going to go anywhere? Not if the bigs have their way (Big Food, Big Pharma, Big Ag, Big Chemical / Big Oil, etc). That's why it would be a good idea to contact your elected representatives on this issue ("some recommendations could be accomplished by the FDA, whereas others may require congressional action to change the current law"). At the very least, make sure people learn about this issue by helping it make the rounds on FACEBOOK. Thanks!