May 27, 2022

Ensuring Safe and Toxic-Free Foods Act of 2022 introduced in Senate

Senate Democrats are introducing a bill that would strengthen the FDA’s Substances Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) rule.

Sen. Edward Markey (D-Massachusetts)

The Ensuring Safe and Toxic-Free Foods Act of 2022 was introduced by Sen. Edward Markey (D-Massachusetts) and co-sponsored by Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-Connecticut) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts). According to a release from Markey’s office, the bill is designed to:

“Ensure the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) fulfills its responsibility to promote the health and well-being of American families by directing the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to strengthen the Substances Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) Rule, which exempts companies from seeking pre-market approval for food chemicals. This legislation would also direct the Secretary of Health and Human Services to create an Office of Food Chemical Safety Reassessment within FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, which would be charged with reassessing whether existing substances such as bisphenols and PFAS are safe for American families to consume.”

Bill highlights include:

  • Prohibit manufacturers from designating substances as safe without supplying proper notice and supporting information to the Secretary of Health and Human Services.
  • Require safety information be publicly available on the FDA website and subject to a 90-day public review period.
  • Prohibit carcinogenic substances from receiving GRAS designation.
  • Prohibit substances that show evidence of reproductive or developmental toxicity from receiving GRAS designation.
  • Prohibit people with conflicts of interest from serving as experts in reviewing and evaluating scientific data with regard to GRAS designations.

“Americans deserve to know what they are eating, and we know that we cannot count on large corporations to put people and safety before profits,” Warren said through the release. “This bill is a step forward to help the FDA ensure the food families eat is safe.”

The bill has been endorsed by several activist groups, including the Environmental Working Group, Center for Science in the Public Interest, Environmental Defense Fund, Breast Cancer Prevention Partners and Earthjustice.

“It’s unbelievable that food companies, not the FDA, decide whether 99% of new chemicals used in food are safe and that it’s been decades since the FDA evaluated the safety of many chemicals used in the foods we eat every day,” said Melanie Benesh, legislative attorney, Environmental Working Group. “The proposed reforms in the Ensuring Safe and Toxic-Free Foods Act of 2022 are desperately needed to fix FDA’s oversight of food chemicals and keep consumers safe.”

Bisphenols and PFAS are chemicals that have been commonly used in plastics, including food packaging.

“Chemicals linked to cancer and other health harms don’t belong anywhere near the food we eat — that’s why we support the Ensuring Safe and Toxic-Free Foods Act of 2022,” said Lisette van Vliet, senior policy manager, Breast Cancer Prevention Partners. “It’s unacceptable for the food and chemical industries to keep using secret toxic chemicals in our food and food packaging.”

This new Senate bill is similar to House Bill 3699, the Toxic Free Food Act of 2021, introduced June 4, 2021. The Toxic Free Food Act of 2021 was referred to a subcommittee on June 7, 2021, with no further actions since.


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