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Capitol Health Call
April 14, 2010

Food Safety Oversight

JAMA. 2010;303(14):1358. doi:10.1001/jama.2010.374

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) needs to strengthen its oversight of food ingredients that are assumed to be safe but which have not undergone previous FDA scrutiny, said the Government Accountability Office (GAO) (http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d10246.pdf).

At issue are food ingredients designated “generally recognized as safe” (GRAS). Such ingredients, which are added to foods to enhance taste, texture, nutritional content, or shelf life, include hundreds of spices, artificial flavors, emulsifies and binders, vitamins and minerals, and preservatives. Currently, companies can determine that a substance is GRAS, such as trans fats in partially hydrogenated vegetable oils, without FDA approval or knowledge.