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Workshop Reviews US Food Additive Regulatory Program

An April 2011 two-day workshop sponsored by The Pew Charitable Trusts, the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) and the journal Nature brought together over 80 experts in science and food policy from government, industry, academia and public interest organizations to develop a shared understanding of the current system the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) uses to assess food additives and to explore opportunities to strengthen the system.

Details of the workshop proceedings are published in the November issue of Comprehensive Reviews in Food Science and Food Safety in an article entitled “Enhancing FDA’s Evaluation of Science to Ensure Chemicals Added to Human Food are Safe: Workshop Proceedings.”

“As a scientific society, one of IFT’s goals is to ensure food policy and regulations are based on sound science, and the workshop was designed to foster an interactive dialogue to share a variety of opinions on the issues surrounding food additives,” said IFT Vice President of Science and Policy Initiatives William Fisher.

Since the passage of the 1958 Food Additives Amendment to the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has developed a comprehensive system to ensure that food additives are safe. The United States continues to have one of the safest food systems in the world. To continue to improve regulatory efforts, presenters at the workshop shared their perspectives on a variety of challenges moving forward, including: advances in science and technology, new regulatory initiatives based on these innovations, hazard identification challenges moving forward, and continued government transparency.

Among the presenters, were Linda Birnbaum, Director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), Michael Taylor, Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Deputy Commissioner of Foods and Mitchell Cheeseman, Acting Director of the FDA’s Office of Food Additive Safety.Although the workshop was not intended to reach a consensus, several themes emerged throughout the discussions. These included:

Importance of communication and outreach between the FDA, the scientific community, and scientists investigating different aspects of research about substances added to food.

Transparency of the criteria FDA uses to evaluate scientific data submitted to the agency and the strategies that the FDA uses to keep toxicology tests current with scientific developments and relevance to human health.

New research methods with demonstrated relevance to human toxicity or disease need to be validated and incorporated into the Redbook.

Need for increased funding for the development and implementation of new or revised test guidelines were acknowledged.

Importance of post market assessments, including strategies and priorities for cyclic review of substances added to foods already in the marketplace.

Opportunities and incentives to leverage hypothesis-based research to make it more useful to regulatory decision making.

Read the full article:

Editor’s Note: In a related article in the November issue of Comprehensive Reviews in Food Science and Food Safety, authors from the Pew Health Group further examine the additive program in the United States. The article, entitled “Navigating the U.S. Food Additive Regulatory Program,” presents a review and analysis of the regulatory system.

About IFT
The Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) is a nonprofit scientific society. Our individual members are professionals engaged in food science, food technology, and related professions in industry, academia, and government. IFT's mission is to advance the science of food, and our long-range vision is to ensure a safe and abundant food supply, contributing to healthier people everywhere.

For more than 70 years, the IFT has been unlocking the potential of the food science community by creating a dynamic global forum where members from more than 100 countries can share, learn, and grow. We champion the use of sound science across the food value chain through the exchange of knowledge, by providing education, and by furthering the advancement of the profession. IFT has offices in Chicago, Illinois and Washington, D.C. For more information, please visit

Stephanie Callahan | Newswise Science News
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