FSIS and FDA work with the industry to ensure that material used in processing and packaging meat and poultry products are safe, perform their intended function, and comply with food safety laws (FDA 1998). In their book, The Rubbish On Our Plates, Perucca and Pouradier warn that many of the late twentieth centurys major diseases, such as Alzheimers and cancer, can be traced to the chemicals in our food from both industrial farming and environmental pollution. They also believe that the modern multi-national food industry is so complex and fast moving that it is impossible for the authorities to monitor the proliferation of new chemicals and irregular practices (Perucca and Pouradier 1996). There are four groups of substances that are exempt from the Food Additives Amendment.
They are generally recognized as safe substances (GRAS), prior sanctioned or approved substances, pesticides, chemicals, and color additives. If new data on a food chemical indicate a possible health risk, the FDA may revoke its GRAS classification of the substance and relabel it as an unapproved food additive (Stare, Aronson, & Barrett 1991). Additives have been around since the beginning of time. Our ancestors used salt to preserve meats and fish; added herbs and spices to improve the flavor of foods; preserved fruit with sugar; and pickled cucumbers in a vinegar solution. But, as our country industrialized, the nation had to depend on the newly emerging food industry to produce and distribute its food. Dishonesty regarding what was added to foods led to the development of Food Safety Laws.
While the first efforts to pass laws to govern food were difficult to enforce, it set the framework for our current policy. Over the years, improvements have been made in increasing the efficiency and ensuring the safety of all additives. Today food and color additives are more strictly regulated that at any other time in history. Regulations known as Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) limit the amount of food and color additives used in foods.
Manufacturers are to use only the amount of an additive necessary to achieve the desired effect (FDA/IFIC 1998). If an additive is approved, FDA issues regulations that may include the types of foods in which it can be used, the maximum amounts to be used, and how it should be identified on food labels. Additives proposed for use in meat and poultry products also must receive specific authorization by USDA. Federal officials then carefully monitor the extent of Americans’ consumption of the new additive and the results of any new research on its safety to assure its use continues to be within safe limits. The Nutrition Labeling and Education Act of 1990 assures that food labeling information is consistent with recent dietary recommendations from the U.S.
Surgeon General and the National Research Council (Jordan 1994). In addition, FDA operates an Adverse Reaction Monitoring System (ARMS) to help serve as an ongoing safety check of all additives. The system monitors and investigates all complaints by individuals or their physicians to specific foods; food and color additives; or vitamin and mineral supplements. The ARMS computerized database helps officials decide whether reported adverse reactions represent a real public health hazard associated with food, so that appropriate action can be taken.
Additives are never given permanent approval. FDA and FSIS continually review the safety of approved additives to determine if approvals should be modified or withdrawn (FDA/IFIC 1998). As consumers we can make an impact on the use of additives in processed foods by complaining to the makers of additive-laden foods. It was pressure from parents who thought their children were reacting poorly to additives such as artificial colorings that got companies specializing in childrens foods to drop questionable additives from their products (Jacobson, et.
al. 1991). As concerned citizens we can urge our legislators to demand tougher testing of additives and more vigorous enforcement of the food-additive laws. To reinforce good food processing practices we can thank companies whose food products do not contain questionable additives and also vote for legislators who are concerned about the health and safety of their constituents. We need to worry about the loss of nutrients that results from modern methods of farming, polluted water, depleted soil, and chemicals used on plants and given to animals (Haas 1999). The earliest uses of food additives were to preserve and enhance the appearance of the foods we consume.
Now with customers concerned about fats in foods and dietary restrictions, food chemists are working to develop new additives to substitute for fat and sugar. Processed foods manufacturers are likely to increase their reliance on additives that cut back on calories, fat, sugar, and salt. We consumers need the assurance that new food ingredients will be safe and truly healthful to our bodies. Peg Jordan, R.N., a recognized fitness writer and consumer health advocate, states that reading food labels can prolong your life (Jordan 1994).
Being an informed consumer will take the guesswork out of choosing the right foods to maintain a wholesome and balanced diet. Avoiding abuses of food and substances is very crucial to ones long-term health, and being concerned about our food supply is very important to ones well-being. Bibliography Benarde, Melvin A. 1971.
The Chemicals We Eat. American Heritage Press, New York, NY. Editors of Prevention Magazine Health Books. 1993. Preventions Food & Nutrition. Rodale Press.
Emmaus, PA. Haas, Elson M. 1999. The Staying Healthy Shoppers Guide.
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Macmillan Publishing Company, Inc., New York, NY. Jacobson, Michael F., Lefferts, Lisa Y., and Garland, Anne Witte. 1991. Safe Food. Living Planet Press, Los Angeles, CA.
Jordan, Peg. 1994. How The New Food Labels Can Save Your Life. Michael Wiese Productions, Studio City, CA. Mindell, Earl. 1987.
Unsafe At Any Meal. Warner Books, Inc., New York, NY. Perucca, Fabien and Pourader, Gerard. 1993. The Rubbish On Our Plates. Prion Books, Ltd., London, England.
Stare, Fredrick J., Aronson, Virginia, and Barrett, Stephen. 1991. Your Guide to Good Nutrition. Prometheus Books, Buffalo, NY. U.S.
Food and Drug Administration/International Food Information Council Brochure. 4/28/1998. URL:http:/um.cfsan.fda.gov/~lrd/foodaddi.html. Winter, Ruth. 1984.
A Consumers Dictionary Of Food Additives. Crown Publishers, Inc., New York, NY.