Few of us realize that the rules governing FDA regulation of food safety date back to the 1950s and allow additives that are “generally recognized as safe” (GRAS) to be exempted from adequate testing. This GRAS loophole results in an insufficient assurance of food safety because, among other things, it allows the use of thousands of food additives that have not been thoroughly tested for toxicity—a fact that concerns Associate Professor Dr. Sheela Sathyanarayana and her colleagues at The American Academy of Pediatrics.
|Dr. Sheela Sathyanarayana is the Co-Director of the EDGE Center’s Developmental & Reproductive Disorders Collaborative Research Team. Photo by UW Medicine.|
Dr. Sathyanarayana is an expert on the effects of endocrine-disrupting chemicals on child development and also the Co-Director of the EDGE Center’s Developmental & Reproductive Disorders Collaborative Research Team. Recently she co-authored a technical report and a policy statement in the scientific journal Pediatrics, together with EDGE toxicology Ph.D. graduate student Rachel Shaffer, and Associate Professor Leonardo Trasande of the New York University School of Medicine, urging Congress to change the guidelines so that the FDA can collect more data about food additives.
|Dr. Rachel Shaffer is an EDGE Ph.D. student in UW’s toxicology program. Photo by Jeremy Shaffer.|
In their technical report, Sathyanarayana and Shaffer point out that very few of the chemicals used in food and food packaging in the U.S. have been tested for reproductive toxicology (only 263 out of 3941 chemicals listed on the FDA “Substances Added to Food” website) and even fewer for developmental toxicology (only two of the same 3941). Children are particularly susceptible to the damaging effects of endocrine disruptors because 1. they eat and drink more relative to their size; 2. their systems for metabolizing and detoxifying chemicals are not as well developed; and 3. their bodies are going through critical hormone-dependent developmental stages, the disruption of which can cause irreversible damage and persistent adverse health effects later in life.