Category Archives: GRAS

Americans still consume ingredients banned in other countries

Maybe we’re just late to the ingredient ban party. Maybe we’re never going to get there. We’re really not sure. What we do know, however, is that Americans are still eating food products that contain a variety of ingredients that many other countries have deemed unsafe for consumption. FoodFacts.com is already aware that the designation of a food additive as Generally Recognized as Safe is a pretty questionable process. And it’s obvious that there are countries where the safety designation of certain ingredients was much more stringent than our own. Let’s review a few of the ingredients that the U.S. FDA still includes on the GRAS list – even though they are banned in other countries.

Food Coloring:
Blue #1 and Blue #2 are both banned in Norway, Finland and France
Studies in the 1980s linked these food dyes to cancer in animal studies. They are also linked to the exacerbation of ADHD symptoms in children.

Yellow #5 is banned in Norway and Austria. Yellow #6 is banned in Norway and Finland. Six of the studies on yellow #5 showed that it caused genotoxicity, a deterioration of the cell’s genetic material with potential to mutate healthy DNA. Both colors have been linked to cancer in animal studies and are implicated in the exacerbation of ADHD symptoms in children.

Brominated Vegetable Oil:
Banned in over 100 different countries, including the European Union, Japan and India, Brominated Vegetable Oil is still approved as additive in the United States with specific restrictions that limit its concentrations in products. Brominated vegetable oil, or BVO, acts as an emulsifier in various products, and contains bromine, a chemical whose fumes can be corrosive and toxic.

Azodicarbonamide:
The governments of the UK and many countries in the EU have determined that they do not think it’s safe for their populations to consume an ingredient that’s also popular in the manufacture of foamed plastics – things like yoga mats and sneaker soles. So Azodicarbonamide is not permitted in the baked products sold in these countries.

Azodicarbonamide is proven to exacerbate (and even cause) asthma symptoms. It is referred to as an “asthma-causing allergen”. While the use of this dough conditioner has certainly declined in the production of U.S. baked products – it’s still out there.

rBGH and rBST:
Recombinant bovine growth hormone and recombinant bovine somatotropin, a synthetic version of bovine growth hormone, can be found in nonorganic dairy products unless noted on the packaging. These hormones are banned in Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Japan and the EU because of dangers to both human and bovine health. While there are American producers who don’t use these hormones, neither are outlawed here in the U.S.

There are other ingredients in addition to these, of course, which have been designated unacceptable in other countries. FoodFacts.com tends to think that we’ve got a problem when we’re recognizing more additives as safe all the time that other countries have discovered problems with. It does appear possible that we aren’t being selective enough when it comes to the ingredients in our food supply and that the FDA could be doing a better job of keeping our foods safe for consumption. And while we’re all thinking that no doctor has ever deemed a person’s cause of death to be consumption of azodicarbonamide or the reason for a person’s cancer to be consumption of artificial food coloring, there’s absolutely mounting evidence that specific ingredient do carry specific health concerns and we’re better off leaving them out of our diets.

Are we getting ready to say goodbye to trans fat in our food supply?

We sure hope so!

Last week the FDA proposed the almost complete elimination of trans fat from food products in the U.S. This is an argument that has been debated for the last three decades and this long-awaited move would force manufacturers to rid their products of ingredients containing trans fat.

This important action would effectively remove partially hydrogenated oils from the FDA Generally Recognized as Safe (or GRAS) list. In response to this, companies that include partially hydrogenated oils in their products would then have to prove that these oils are safe to eat. It would be exceptionally difficult for any company (regardless of its size or political weight) to actually do this. There’s basically no scientific data that would support a statement that infers that partially hydrogenated oils aren’t harmful. The Institute of Medicine has concluded that there is no safe level for consumption of trans fats, a conclusion that the F.D.A. cited in its reasoning. The agency emphasized that the ruling, which is open to public comment for 60 days, was preliminary. But food producers seemed to take it in stride, in part because many had already made adjustments, and Dr. Margaret A. Hamburg, the agency’s commissioner, signaled that the draft rule might be made final.

Artificial trans fats are a “double whammy” for the human body. They lower good cholesterol and increase bad cholesterol. There’s nothing nutritionally beneficial about trans fats. In addition they are blamed as a major culprit in the increase in heart disease in the United States. A somewhat deceptive labeling system has kept many Americans in the dark about what they’ve actually been consuming. For years, manufacturers have been allowed to list a 0 on the Trans Fat line of a nutrition label if the product that label is on carries less than .5 g. of trans fat per serving.

And while efforts to reduce trans fat in the food supply have been effective, partially hydrogenated oils are in thousands and thousands of food products. In fact, consumers would actually never suspect the presence of oils in some of those products. For instance, oil of any sort probably wouldn’t be the first thing a consumer would think of when reflecting on the possible ingredients of YooHoo Chocolate Drink – but partially hydrogenated oils are in there.

For many years partially hydrogenated oils were considered healthier than saturated animal fats like butter. They are cheaper for manufacturers and so they became extremely popular. And while there’s been a major reduction in the consumption of trans fats, partially hydrogenated oils are still pretty popular ingredients in prepared and packaged foods. While we used to eat about 4.6 grams of trans fats daily, we’re now down to about 1 gram per day. That’s enormous progress. But we’re still consuming these oils which are implicated in the rise of heart disease far too often.

Partially hydrogenated oils are trans fats. Consumption is dangerous for all people. They add nothing nutritionally sound to our diets. They add to the incidences of heart disease throughout our country.

All in all, Foodfacts.com thinks this is a pretty easy call. While it will cause food manufacturers to reformulate thousands of products (which will be incredibly costly and time consuming), eliminating partially hydrogenated oils from our food supply will be worth it in the long run. Ingredients that are known health hazards need to be banned sooner rather than later in hopes that we will reverse devastating health trends (like heart disease and obesity), not just here in the U.S., but across the globe.

Food additive approvals … are conflicts of interest endangering consumers?

The FoodFacts.com website offers an extensive collection of information on controversial ingredients – which include many food additives. BHA, BHT, TBHQ, Azodicarbonamide, Sodium Benzoate and numerous food dyes are just examples of the many additives that are currently considered GRAS – or Generally Recognized as Safe by the FDA.

After educating yourself on any of these additives, it’s surprising to find that they are included in the GRAS list. We sometimes wonder why an additive that’s also included in antifreeze made it into our food supply … or how coloring that has been shown to exacerbate ADHD tendencies in children is still an allowable ingredient. Today we read about a study that may provide some insight into these and other important questions regarding the safety of a variety of different additives.

The study was conducted by the Pew Charitable Trusts in Washington, D.C. Researchers used conflict of interest criteria developed by a committee of the Institute of Medicine to analyze 451 GRAS notifications that were voluntarily submitted to the FDA between 1997 and 2012.

For the 451 GRAS notifications, 22.4 percent of the safety assessments were made by an employee of an additive manufacturer, 13.3 percent by an employee of a consulting firm selected by the manufacturer and 64.3 percent by an expert panel selected by either a consulting firm or the manufacturer, according to the results.

“Between 1997 and 2012, financial conflicts of interest were ubiquitous in determinations that an additive to food was GRAS. The lack of independent review in GRAS determinations raises concerns about the integrity of the process and whether it ensures the safety of the food supply, particularly in instances where the manufacturer does not notify the FDA of the determination. The FDA should address these concerns,” the study concludes.

The Food Additives Amendment of 1958 allows manufacturers to determine when an additive is GRAS. After a GRAS determination is made, manufacturers are not required to notify the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), although in some instances the agency is notified, the authors write in the study background. The study goes on to add that the individuals that companies select to make these determinations may have financial conflicts of interest.

Marion Nestle, Ph.D., M.P.H., of New York University, commented on the study saying it provides an important addition to the growing body of evidence for undue food industry influence on food safety policy. Nestle also commented that the lack of independent review in GRAS determinations raises serious questions about the public health implications of unregulated additives in the food supply, especially the additives that the FDA does not even know about.

FoodFacts.com wanted to get this important information out in front of our community. We should all be aware of the possibility that the Generally Recognized As Safe designation can be more about food manufacturers than food safety. In response to these findings, we encourage our community to reach out within their own networks and educate other consumers regarding the use of controversial ingredients in food  products.   Our knowledge can be a powerful thing. And as always, let’s avoid processed foods, so that we can avoid the questionable additives that are lurking in our food supply.

http://media.jamanetwork.com/news-item/research-examines-conflicts-of-interest-in-approvals-of-additives-to-food/