(NaturalNews) The explosive introduction of new food additives, in addition to an easing of some federal oversight requirements, has allowed manufacturers to dodge scrutiny from the Food and Drug Administration, the agency responsible for ensuring the safety of chemicals that are flowing into the food supply.
And, as reported by The Washington Post, in hundreds of cases the FDA is not even aware of the existence of new additives, which can include chemical preservatives, thickening agents and flavorings, interviews and records have shown.
"We simply do not have the information to vouch for the safety of many of these chemicals," said Michael Taylor, the FDA's deputy commissioner for food, in an interview with the Post.
The paper further reported:
The FDA has received thousands of consumer complaints about additives in recent years, saying certain substances seem to trigger asthmatic attacks, serious bouts of vomiting, intestinal-tract disorders and other health problems.
'We have questions about whether we can do what people expect'
At a rate that has been much faster than in prior years, companies are adding secret ingredients to practically everything. However, the more widespread concern among food-safety advocates and federal regulators is the increasing trend of companies choosing a quicker certification process, at a level never intended when it was created 17 years ago to, in part, help businesses.
Once, there was a more formal and time-consuming federal review process in place, where the FDA, not companies themselves, made the final determination on what was safe. That has nearly been completely replaced by a voluntary certification system. The result, say critics, is that consumers now have very little way of knowing, for sure, that the food products they buy won't harm them.
"We aren't saying we have a public health crisis," Taylor told the Post. "But we do have questions about whether we can do what people expect of us."
In the 50 years since Congress created and then granted FDA responsibility for ensuring the safety of food additives, the number of them has soared -- from about 800 to more than 9,000. They range from common ingredients like salt to brand-new green tea extracts.
The increase in additives has come as a result of demand from busy Americans, most of whom get half their daily meals from processed foods, according to the Post's summary of government and industry records.
And some food additives have been linked to potentially harmful human conditions. For instance, common additives in foods consumed primarily by children have been linked to increases in hyperactivity, The New York Times has reported:
The new research, which was financed by Britain's Food Standards Agency and published online by the British medical journal The Lancet, presents regulators with a number of issues: Should foods containing preservatives and artificial colors carry warning labels? Should some additives be prohibited entirely? Should school cafeterias remove foods with additives?
FDA has approved tens of thousands of additives over the years
In the past six months alone, top officials at the FDA and in the food industry have admitted that new steps should be implemented to ensure better accounting of new food additives that are now proliferating within the food supply.
The Center for Food Safety, an advocacy group, has a more aggressive approach: The group filed suit against the FDA earlier this year, charging that the agency has essentially abdicated its additive oversight role.
In addition, the Grocery Manufacturers Association provided seed money this past spring to create a research center at Michigan State University, to deal with the rising concerns about additives.
As reported by Natural News, the FDA has approved more than 70,000 food additives, from artificial ingredients to genetically modified ones, and from "all natural" to GRAS -- generally recognized as safe. Cosmetics and personal care products are even worse, with virtually no regulations on chemicals, and your skin absorbs whatever you put on it, and it ends up in the bloodstream, so add that to the 70,000 other food "criminals."