Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Most people believe that the FDA determines what food additives can go into our processed foods. Most people are wrong.

When I talk about the state of our food supply to people, I get some looks of disbelief.  Well, actually I get told that I am crazy.  A lot.  I get compared to people that claim that aliens run the government after crash landing here in Roswell, or those that think the Feds are spraying toxic chemicals onto the populations through the engines of jets in a conspiracy called "ChemTrails", or other crap like Obama is actually a robot built by Disney.  You know, whacko crap.  Well, maybe the Obama thing might be true, he does seem somewhat animated at times, and his decisions often seem as though made by a committee.   Nearly EVERYONE seems to actually believe that the American food supply is not tainted with chronic carcinogenic toxins and that just as they were told when they were school children, the all mighty and all powerful FDA is there to protect the health of all citizens.  There can be no food manufactured here in America that contains additives that have not been rigorously tested for safety, compatability with other additives, and proven to have no long term adverse side effects.

Nothing could be further from this ridiculous concept.

On August 7 of this year, the Journal of Internal Medicine published this somewhat frightening report about the actual processes used to determine how additives are approved (JAMA abstract report)  This report details the very special relationship between food manufacturers, their desire (or need) to utilize a specific additive in their products, and the FDA.  It seems that the actual guidelines in place at the FDA (FDA Guide) relies on the food manufacturer to determine if there is any sort of NEED for them to petition the FDA for approval of any specific additive that isn't already on the GRAS list (Generally Recognized As Safe) list or into the EAFUS list. (Everything Added to Food in the US) ((Careful, this list is huge and takes a long time to download))  Anyway, if a food manufacturer decides to use something new, some previously unheard of additive, then they get to decide if they want to petition the FDA for permission.  If they do determine that they will go ahead and seek approval, they do all of the research, and then when they submit the application to the FDA they get to choose which individuals that the FDA uses to make critical regulatory decisions about the new additive.  And of course, the manufacturers normally choose these decision makers not for their specific expertise; but for their financial interests.  Sort of a conflict of interest, personal interest versus the interest of the public as a whole.  Just this process alone has in fact spawned a little mini industry, groups of enterprising people ready and willing to be hired for the GRAS list consultations for the FDA. 

Yes, you can reread that part about whether or not the MANUFACTURER decides if they want to petition the FDA to allow them to put their new chemical on the lists or not.  It's right there on the FDA Guide for you to verify if that is in fact true.  And yes it is true, most businesses do in fact apply for GRAS certification for most new additives.  That we know.  Check again, they are not required to do so.  

Just for fun, look at the GRAS list sometime.  One of the things that I have stated for the last 30 years has been that the reason Stevia was never put on the GRAS list was because the sugar refiners and chemical sweetener manufacturers would not allow it.  Up until a few years ago, you were not allowed to use any Stevia product in food.  As a sweetener.  You could buy the stuff, but it could only be sold as an herbal supplement.  But then back in 2008, with the public slowly becoming aware of just how toxic aspartame really is, big businesses started to make refined Stevia extracts.  About 14 of them have been patented and given GRAS status.  The Cargill patent actually contains over 40 steps to refine the Stevia and includes the use of acetone, methanol, ethanol, acetonitrile, and isopropanol to "purify" the stevia extract.  Then the FDA allows them to label the resulting compound as being "All Natural".

Plain raw Stevia is not allowed to be used as a food additive to this day. Just not enough money to be made on the stuff.  Or so it seems.

And that in a nutshell is how the world works.  It is all about appearances, and perceptions. 

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