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Tag: FDA

Donald Trump: We Don’t Need Food Safety Laws

Marion Nestle, the esteemed professor of nutrition and all things food, reports today on her blog, Food Politics, about Donald Trumps stated intention to dismantle the FDA.fda_foods_flavors

Not that I agree with the FDA on everything (ahem, GMOs), but we all know that when left to their own devices, industries usually put profits first and may not adequately police themselves or voluntarily maintain standards important to the public health and welfare. Hence why the government got involved in the first place.

By the way, there’s an excellent podcast about how and why the FDA began by Stuff You Missed in History Class. You can listen online or download it to your phone. As they explain, one hundred years ago there were no regulations on additives, no labeling requirements, and no food safety tests. With no oversight on the industry, sugar was cut with sand, flour was bleached, and even borax used as a food additive. It was a “Consumer Beware” culture when it came to purchasing and eating food.

In a recent September, 2016, FDA Consumer Update titled “What’s In a Name? What Every Consumer Should Know About Foods and Flavors”, Douglas Balentine, Director of the FDA’s Office of Nutrition and Food Labeling, explains the FDA’s role thusly:

“Ultimately we want consumers to be able to make informed choices about their foods, and FDA’s job is to make sure consumers know what they’re getting.”

Yet another long-term effect on the kind of country we want to live in to consider when we go to the polls on election day.

Are All Food Additives Guaranteed To Be Safe?

I almost titled this post: Does the FDA Test and Validate the Safety of the Additives Found in Our Foods?

To both questions, the answer is an unqualified “No”!

The truth of the matter is that no one is looking out for you, the consumer, and your health; you are responsible for your own health. Mainstream food companies are concerned with profits, or making the most desirable (and hopefully addictive) product out of the least expensive ingredients that have nothing to do with you the consumer’s health.

Respected food quality guru Marion Nestle writes in her blog, Food Politics, about a recent study concerning food additives published in JAMA Internal Medicine, a very respected medical journal. It turns out that the FDA has very little involvement as to if food additives are labeled GRAS (Generally Recognized As Safe).

So who decides if a food additive is safe to eat? The manufacturer.

• The manufacturer gets to decide if they want to tell the FDA about a food additive.

• The manufacturer gets to decide if they want to conduct studies funded and designed by their own scientists or convene a “panel” populated by their own “experts” to review the safety of a food additive.

• The manufacturer gets to decide if the food additive is safe or not.

The FDA pretty much accepts what it is told by manufacturers, because, as I’ve noted before in this blog, the FDA’s mission is not necessarily to protect the American populace from unscrupulous manufacturers peddling poisons and calling them food or medicine, but to promote and protect the American industry innovation.

The FDA does not have the scope to do its own testing of the thousands of food additives currently on the market; it must rely on the manufacturers themselves to tell it if there is a problem with a substance. As Marion Nestle says, ” As long as not too many people roll over dead after eating foods with new additives, nobody will ever have a clue whether the additive is safe.”

Top food additives to avoid from


Just Say No to GMO Salmon

Great news to see grocery stores taking a stand against genetically modified salmon even when the FDA won’t. Beginning with Whole Foods Market decision to require GMO labeling on all products sold in their stores by 2018, now we see Trader Joes and other grocery chains announcing their boycott of GMO salmon, if and when it gets approved for widespread, unlabeled distribution to unsuspecting Americans.

GMO salmon vs wild salmon
A size comparison of an AquAdvantageAE Salmon (background) vs. a non-transgenic Atlantic salmon sibling (foreground) of the same age. (AquaBounty Technologies)

This franken-fish is engineered to grow twice as fast as a normal wild salmon.

Perhaps the biggest factor for me about GMOs in general is that while scientists have figured out how to splice genes from one kingdom onto genes from another kingdom and turn them “ON”, they don’t know how to turn them “OFF” afterward.

According to Jeffery Smith, director of the Institute for Responsible Technology, the bacteria in your gut can pick up these genes so that they may continue replicating inside your body.

Now if that’s not appetite-destroying, think about it a little more.

Biology tells us that kingdoms don’t –and shouldn’t– cross-mate. You never see a pig, for example, mating with a beetle and producing babies. Or a butterfly mating with corn to produce butterfly-corn offspring… Except in the labs where they are creating genetically modified foods for human consumption.

A month or so from now, with FDA approval, this transgenic salmon may begin making its way into our food supply. It will be served in banquet halls, in restaurant chains, and in school lunch programs. And here’s the kicker: you’ll never know because it will not be required to be labeled as such.

Let’s not overlook our pets. Mainstream brands of pet foods already include GMO products like corn and soy; now the fish will be GMO, too. Sorry Kitty.

It’s getting more and more difficult to opt-out of this massive experiment on the public health, even for the extremely vigilant.

The FDA is accepting public comments on the pending approval of AquAdvantageAE Salmon through April 26, 2013. Consider leaving a comment letting the government know your thoughts on the matter.

Food Dyes and Children

In March of 2011, the US Food and Drug Administration (F.D.A.) finally decided to call for a committee to examine the many recent studies looking at the link between synthetic food dyes and colors (FD&C) and behavior problems in children, such as ADD and ADHD.

Most commercial food dyes that you’ll find in almost every commercially-sold processed food are made from petroleum and were approved by the F.D.A. in 1931, according to the New York Times.

While the FDA and indeed, the mainstream American medical community, might debate the effects of food dyes on children’s behavior and the public health in general, the Europeans already require warning labels on products containing food dyes. And guess what happened when they did that? American food companies like Kellog’s, Kraft, and General Mills stopped adding food dyes to their products to be sold in Europe.

The FDA’s website page on food dyes proudly displays that it was last updated in April, 2010. I guess that means the scientific committee convened 15 months ago, in 2011, to look at the safety of widespread use of FD&C in our national food supply has yet to come to any new conclusions.

I guess we’ll have to keep waiting and watching with bated breath to see whether the FDA will buck industries that believe adding food dyes to their products make them irresistible to us, the consumers who have been raised to expect brightly colored foods from cakes to cereals to yogurts, ice creams, candies, medicines, and even pickles. Once you start reading labels, you’ll find food dyes lurking where you least expect them and in so many kinds of foods.

In our house, we’re well familiar with the effects of even the smallest trace of red food dye, like the swirl on the white circle of a Starlight mint. The last time a well-meaning relative slipped my son a one of these harmless-seeming candies, he was vomiting up a complete dinner in the restaurant bathroom 20 minutes later.

How natural are “natural flavors”?

I’m always wary when I see a listing for “natural flavors” on an ingredient list. If it’s so natural, why don’t they just say “vanilla beans,” or “cola beans,” or “strawberries.” Because you often won’t find any trace of anything natural in an ingredient list for “natural flavors,” that’s why.

My friend, Nonna Joann Bruso, publishes an informative little e-zine about raising healthy eaters called “Baby Bites.” In her latest issue she lists all the ingredients that make up the “natural flavors” in a strawberry milkshake. Let me reprise it here for you:

Amyl acetate, amyl butyrate, amyl valerate, anethol, anisyl formate, benzyl acetate, benzyl isobutyrate, butyric acid, cinnamyl isobutyrate, cinnamyl valerate, cognac essential oil, diacetyl, dipropyl ketone, ethyl acetate, ethyl amyl ketone, ethyl butyrate, ethyl cinnamate, ethyl heptanoate, ethyl heptylate, ethyl lactate, ethyl methylphenylglycidate, ethyl nitrate, ethyl propionate, ethyl valerate, heliotropin, hydroxyphenyl-2-butanone (10 percent solution in alcohol), a-ionone, isobutyl anthranilate, isobutyl butyrate, lemon essential oil, maltol, 4-methylacetophenone, methyl anthranilate, methyl benzoate, methyl cinnamate, methyl heptine carbonate, methyl naphthyl ketone, methyl salicylate, mint essential oil, neroli essential oil, nerolin, neryl isobutyrate, orris butter, phenethyl alcohol, rose, rum ether, g-undecalactone, vanillin, and solvent.


Why oh why do companies think they can improve on nature by substituting natural foods for a  compound of more than 50 chemicals and derivatives? You’d think it would be a lot more work to develop this mixture than it would be just to do something really radical, like blend up some strawberries?

But even more horrifying to me is the utter lack of regard for the consumer of these chemical mixes. These ingredients include petroleum byproducts commonly used in products like nailpolish, tanning oils, perfumes, etc… Some of these ingredients, like butyric acid, are known to be cancer-causing, yet they are still included in this “natural” strawberry flavoring.

Even vanillin is synthesized in a petrochemical plant in China or Louisiana to mimic the flavor of real vanilla. Without the real vanilla, of course.

You can argue that you might receive a really small amount of these substances in a single strawberry milkshake. Maybe. But add up all the things you might be eating every day that contain artificial or “natural” flavors and colors, and that’s a lot of toxins to accumulate in your body. Soda pop, snack cakes, cheese-flavored crackers, maple-flavored syrups, mainstream ice creams, cereals, juices… need I go on?

My goal is always to stick to whole foods as much as possible to avoid these hidden killers, but when I do purchase prepared foods I look for labels that list fewer ingredients where all of them are easily identifiable. Unfortunately, the FDA allows companies to hide that ugly list above under the catch-all ingredient of “natural flavors.”

Now you know, though, and you won’t be fooled so easily.