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Is Processed Food Safe? The FDA Doesn’t Know

Is Processed Food Safe? The FDA Doesn’t Know
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Those unpronounceable ingredients listed on food packages are all tested, regulated and safe, right? When a company adds a new additive to its food, they have to ask permission first, don’t they?

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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Photo 1 from jazzijava; Photo 2: from Helge Höpfner via Wikimedia Commons; Photo 3: Thinkstock

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95 comments

+ add your own
6:05AM PDT on Sep 25, 2013

Thank you Cathryn, for Sharing this!

8:24PM PDT on Sep 25, 2012

It's best to eat as little processed food as you can. It's not going to kill you but it can make you fat and sluggish.

9:46PM PDT on Sep 14, 2012

Right On!

3:44AM PDT on Sep 14, 2012

The FDA works for agribusiness. We all have to do our own research.

2:13AM PDT on Sep 14, 2012

IS it safe? Is it good for you?

6:41PM PDT on Sep 13, 2012

What is wrong with REAL food? We should not real dangerous chemicals.

1:27PM PDT on Sep 13, 2012

thanks

10:43AM PDT on Sep 13, 2012

Good to know.

3:48AM PDT on Sep 12, 2012

Not good.

12:09AM PDT on Sep 12, 2012

No wonder the FDA stands for Full of Dumb Arses!

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