U.S. Representatives Rosa DeLauro (CT-03) and Chellie Pingree (ME-01) today announced that the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report in response to their request that the GAO examine food contamination by chemical substances in our food.
“Let me be clear- these are forever chemicals that do not break down and may have a detrimental impact on the health of Americans,” said DeLauro. “And over time, according to the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) Total Diet Study (TDS), these chemicals can be found in a variety of food products. We need action to address this issue because the health of the American people should always come first.”
“From drinking water and soil to pre-packaged food at the grocery store, ‘forever chemical’ contamination is a growing public health concern for Mainers and people across the country,” Congresswoman Pingree said. “Alongside Congresswoman DeLauro, I pushed for this Government Accountability Office report to determine what actions are being taken at the federal level to evaluate the prevalence and risk of chemical food contamination. While Maine is leading the nation in our response to the PFAS crisis, GAO’s report and recommendations equips Congress with crucial insights into the FDA’s oversight of chemicals used in food processing and packaging so we can protect our communities nationwide against PFAS contamination.”
The report entitled “FDA Oversight of Substances Used in Manufacturing, Packaging, and Transporting Food Could Be Strengthened” reviews FDA oversight of indirect food additives. It identifies how food processing and packaging can lead to contamination of food and may pose health risks.
Food processing and packaging can introduce non-food substances that may pose a health risk into food. FDA reviews information on the safety of the substances used for packaging before their first use, and as new information becomes available, FDA will reevaluate its use based on the new information. However, FDA does not have the specific authority to require companies to provide information that the agency may need for such reviews – so re-evaluation can take time or in many cases, may not be possible.
The GAO makes two recommendations to the FDA in the report: 1) request specific legal authority from Congress to compel companies to provide the information needed to reassess the safety of substances and 2) track the dates of the last reviews for all food contact substances to allow FDA to readily identify substances that warrant post-market review.
“Food safety is a second-class citizen at the FDA, and that can have deadly consequences,” DeLauro continued. “We have seen how not taking food safety seriously can lead to contaminated product, recalls, and subsequent shortages that strain the supply chain and contribute to rising costs. It’s time to put the ‘F’ back into ‘FDA’. We need to prioritize food safety at the agency. I thank my colleague Congresswoman Pingree for joining me in requesting this report from the GAO, which will help us move policies that better food processing and packaging, and better protect the health and well-being of the American people. I look forward to working with her to implement the recommendations made to FDA in the report.”