Wednesday, September 17, 2014

FDA Admits That It Doesn’t Know What’s In Your Food

In 2001, Marlow Foods filed a Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) notification with the FDA for their veggie product called Quorn, which contains a protein-rich fungus dubbed mycroprotein. The company previously asked for the FDA’s approval, but when after more than 15 years there was no reply, they opted for a short cut and provided the agency with their own research findings. Within 6 weeks Quorn was signed off by the FDA. Soon, customer complaints started pouring in. All sorts of health concerns were described, ranging from breathing difficulties to vomiting and GI reactions. Independent studies published between 2003 and 2009 also noted severe and even life-threatening allergic reactions to mycoprotein. Nonetheless, the FDA refused to challenge Marlow’s findings. They agreed that individuals may experience adverse reactions to Quorn, but no public announcement was made. So what happened to the agency that was designed to protect and promote public health through the regulation and supervision of food safety?

Michael Taylor, the FDA’s deputy commissioner for food, admitted that they ‘simply do not have the information to vouch for the safety of many of these chemicals’. New additives and preservatives are being added to food, drinks, and dietary supplements with such speed that the agency cannot keep up any more. Also, some companies are including secret ingredients into their products, which they are not keen to reveal, and this poses an additional challenge.

Initially, the approval process was a lengthy and thorough affair, and the research was conducted by the FDA themselves. However, the companies started complaining that they were losing precious time – as was the case in the above mentioned Marlow example – so the FDA introduced an expedited certification process. When started, it was not meant to replace the in-depth studies. Still, the industry was no longer obliged to report on all the studies that were done in relation to a certain product. For example, in their application for Quorn, Marlow didn’t mention that in the late 1970s there was a large scale volunteer trial taking place. During the trial, nearly 5% of the 200 participants reported feeling ill after eating several test meals that contained their signature mycroprotein. Surely, this information should be shared!

In many cases, the FDA doesn’t even know of the existence of new additives, which can include chemical preservatives, flavorings and thickening agents. It has been agreed that new steps need to be taken to ensure the safety of food, as additives have gone out of control (and you can read more about it in my previous article about the top 10 worst ingredients in food). The Center for Food Safety (CFS) is an advocacy group that has decided to take matters into their own hands and push for change more aggressively. This year they sued the FDA over their reluctance to oversee the additives approval process. For all new ingredients, companies should seek a formal FDA approval, which must be based on rigorous research proving the additive is safe. But it’s not sure if the law gets implemented, and if there really is a motivation for it.

For the rest of the story:

No comments:

Post a Comment