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October 25, 1985

Keeping foods safe and labels honest

JAMA. 1985;254(16):2228-2229. doi:10.1001/jama.1985.03360160058010

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Are food packages a proper forum for nutritional messages? One of the most sensitive issues facing the FDA is what, if anything, to allow on food packaging.

Recent claims for bran cereals that seem to imply that eating a high fiber diet prevents cancer—claims endorsed by the National Cancer Institute (NCI)— have caused strained feelings, at the very least, between the FDA and its sister Public Health Service organization, the NCI.

Since the passage of the 1906 Pure Food and Drug Act, the FDA has used its regulatory powers to keep dangerous, adulterated, or misbranded products off the market. The passage of the 1938 federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act—and the later food and color additives amendments—further broadened agency authority.

This past summer, the agency moved to ban six sulfite preservatives in fresh vegetables and fruits, because they had been linked to at least 13 deaths, primarily attributed to allergic