Food safety continues to be top-of-mind for consumers today more than ever before. Major food and beverage companies are constantly revamping formulas for some of our most popular food and drinks, leaving consumers curious about what exactly is contained in these products.
Likewise, consumers are increasingly questioning the process wherein flavors are evaluated and deemed safe. That’s why scientific and regulatory bodies, including the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Flavor and Extract Manufacturers Association (FEMA), have created transparent measures across the food supply chain that assure the safety of flavorings and food additives.
In 1958, Congress enacted the Food Additives Amendment to the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act (FD&C), which requires manufacturers of new food additives to obtain pre-market approval by the FDA before marketing to the public. Under Section 201 (s) of the amendment, a flavoring substance labeled “generally recognized as safe” (GRAS) is excluded from the amendment for two reasons: 1.) scientific data about the use of a substance is widely known and 2.) a large consensus among qualified experts established the substance as safe under the conditions of its intended use.
However, gradually, the FDA found itself under intense pressure from the government to re-examine the GRAS status of substances not previously covered upon passage of the Food Additive Amendment. So, it proposed a rule whereby individuals could send notification that use of a substance is GRAS. Since the introduction of the notification program, the agency has received and responded to nearly 200 GRAS notices for a variety of flavorings and food additives.
For more than 50 years, The FEMA Expert Panel has independently served as the primary body for safety assessment of food flavorings and food additives. The group is comprised of experts knowledgeable in chemistry, toxicology, pharmacology, medicine and pathology and has garnered an esteemed status among other global scientific regulatory bodies, such as the United Nations/World Health Organization’s Joint Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA), the European Food Safety Authority, and the Japanese Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare.
Through periodic, comprehensive reviews of all substances in the FEMA GRAS program, which are publicly available in a series of publications in the journal Food Technology, the FEMA Expert Panel helps the FDA guarantee fairness and clarity in the scientific assessment of GRAS determinations.
It’s important for consumers and member companies alike to understand the role the FEMA Expert Panel plays toward safeguarding the health of consumers, as well as offering protection of companies’ business interests. Safety is of paramount importance, and FEMA remains committed to supplying healthful – and tasty – flavors for foods and beverages.