A new piece of legislation is being proposed that would help take the mystery out of the foods Americans eat.  Introduced on May 27th by Sen. Edward J. Markey of Massachusetts and co-sponsored by Sens. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, the bill, called The Ensuring Safe and Toxic-Free Foods Act of 2022, calls for stricter regulation of the foods that normally pass muster by the FDA.

“It is long past time we revise existing food safety measures and close the loophole allowing manufacturers to self-regulate what new substances can enter our food supply”, said Sen. Markey.

The newer, more stringent rules would apply to the regulation of what are called “Generally Recognized as Safe” substances (GRAS).  The bill would also create a new office within the FDA whose job it would be to more closely assess the safety of chemicals in our food supply.

Provisions of the bill would:

  • Prohibit manufacturers from designating substances as safe without supplying proper notice and supporting information to the Secretary of Health and Human Services.
  • Require safety information be publicly available on the FDA website and subject to a 90-day public review period.
  • Prohibit carcinogenic substances from receiving GRAS designation.
  • Prohibit substances that show evidence of reproductive or developmental toxicity from receiving GRAS designation.
  • Prohibit people with conflicts of interest from serving as experts in reviewing and evaluating scientific data with regard to GRAS designations.

This is not the first time Sen. Markey has raised this issue.  Seeing the problem with those conflicts of interest arising back in 2016, he wrote to the FDA recommending they more closely focus on mitigating them. 

Six years later he sees that little has changed, as food companies continue to be trusted to deem new chemicals safe rather than the government agency created for such decisions.  Now, only time will tell how those food companies will respond to such rebalancing. They may find themselves compelled to adapt, as consumers have become more critical of food additives than ever before.