When it comes to food, Americans are lucky to worry about things like nutrition, taste, aesthetics…not necessarily safety. When we walk the grocery store aisles, we trust that what has been put before us is edible. Yet, the FDA has left a dangerous door open in its Final Rule on Substances Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS).
Looking past the name—which inspires the same kind of confidence as, “that trampoline is generally recognized as safe” or “that dog is generally friendly”—this rule creates a massive conflict of interest. The GRAS ruling allows for food manufacturers to determine the safety of their own food additives. Thus, companies that create additives, use additives, or sell additives get to decide the worth of their own products. As pointed out in this article, these rules were drawn up in a time when GRAS substances referred to vinegar or vegetable oil, not complex chemicals. Nowadays, this invites a “shoot first, ask questions later” mentality that may work for some products, but not food.