Food Additives

December 26, 1969

Report Outline
Possible Hazards to Health In Additives
Enforcement of Food Protection Laws
New Era of Concern for the Consumer

Possible Hazards to Health In Additives

Rising Interst In Safety Of Food Components

Americans used to take it for granted that their food was well protected against contamination. Now they are not so sure; products long on the market have been called into question, particularly food additives. Broadly defined, these are substances added to foods or food products, intentionally or not, in the course of growth or processing. Recently, the use of a few additives has been banned, restricted or voluntarily discontinued under the weight of medical suspicion, if not proof, that they are potentially harmful to the human consumer. Soft drinks containing cyclamate, an artificial sweetener, for example, will disappear from market shelves by Jan. 1 under government order.

The Food and Drug Administration has ordered a review of more than 600 additives “generally regarded as safe.” But agency officials say they lack money to do the full job—and the job might require years even with added funding. The performance of federal agencies responsible for the safety of what people eat and drink offers them little reassurance. Within the past year, critics ranging from Ralph Nader to congressional committees to the American Bar Association have accused one or another of those agencies of ineptitude or dereliction of duty.

A confidential report by a panel of officials of the Food and Drug Administration in mid-1969 estimated that two million to 10 million Americans become ill every year from eating contaminated food. The panel concluded that the agency was “not equipped to cope with the challenge” of protecting the public from bad food, bad drugs or bad cosmetics.

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