A new study by the Environmental Working Group reveals that conventional packaged foods have over 2,000 chemical preservatives that don’t have approval from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Unlike organic foods, which are strictly regulated, conventional foods can contain chemicals that have been linked to serious health problems including cancer. Sodium nitrate and butylated hydroxyanisole are two examples.
Many of these chemicals are not reviewed by independent experts but are deemed “safe” by chemical companies, food companies, or industry trade associations.
“The same companies that manufacture food chemicals are allowed to declare them safe,” says Melanie Benesh, EWG legislative attorney, one of the authors of the new report. “It’s like the fox guarding the hen house. For those consumers seeking ‘clean foods,’ free from toxic chemical additives, buying organic is really your only option.”
Dawn Undurraga, an EWG nutritionist, tells Newsmax: “An estimated 2,000 synthetic chemicals can be used in conventional foods, often reviewed under dubious circumstances by chemical or food companies, thanks to the antiquated GRAS loophole.”
GRAS refers to “generally recognized as safe.” This FDA rule that allows food companies to add a new ingredient to the food supply with almost no federal oversight has been widely criticized by watchdog groups, including Consumer Reports.
“This rule puts consumers at risk by allowing the food industry to bypass crucial safety checks,” says Laura MacCleery, vice president of Policy and Mobilization for Consumer Reports and a renowned expert on food additives. “Companies are able to introduce novel substances into food in secret, without having to show they are safe.”
The EWG is one of several public health groups that filed a lawsuit against the FDA in an effort to eliminate the decades old GRAS loophole.
“While that case is pending, consumers can look to organic packaged foods to minimize their exposure to these chemicals,” says Undurraga.
Substances added to organic food must be approved by government and independent experts every five years. These substances approved for use in organic foods must be proven safe for consumption, with no adverse impact on the environment.
Since 2008, 72 substances have been rejected for use in organic food.
“Consumers assume that their food is safe,” says Benesh. “But many food chemicals with connections to cancer and other serious health concerns have been deemed safe by chemical and food companies, not the FDA.”
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