According to a review by the Pew Health Group’s Food Additives Project, the answer is a resounding, “No!” Of more than 10,000 chemicals allowed in human food as of January 2011, a third were approved by those with a vested interest. Either the product manufacturers themselves or the Flavor and Extract Manufacturers Association Expert Panel gave them a stamp of approval.
The other two-thirds got the blessing of one of the agencies charged with regulating additives. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) looks after pesticides. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has responsibility for all other chemicals.
It is easy to do the math. Double-blind, peer-reviewed studies are costly. Testing the safety of a new chemical requires longitudinal studies. Even those are not enough since chemicals never interact with the body in isolation. Tracking one chemical at a time or even narrow combinations is an imprecise method. So it is very difficult to be sure if something is safe or not.
Neither the EPA nor the FDA has the budget for major research projects. That leaves us in industry hands. Their version of the “precautionary principle” could probably be defined as, “a rule meant to keep our profits healthy unless we are caught making people sick, in which case we will find legal means for avoiding responsibility.”
Next: Beyond the 10,000: What the FDA Doesn’t Know
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