Representative Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) has introduced the Toxic Free Food Act, a new legislation that would overhaul the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)'s process for determining the safety of chemical additives used in the food supply. In the past, FDA has allowed food manufacturers to designate various chemicals as "generally recognized as safe" (GRAS), without FDA review or public notice. The Toxic Free Food Act will require FDA to close the GRAS loophole and make the industry's chemical food additives subject to FDA approval.
Per the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, FDA is required to review and confirm the safety of any food additives before they enter the food supply. Under FDA's GRAS rule though, the agency allowed food manufacturers to bypass these reviews and make safety determinations in secret. Initially, the GRAS exemption was created by Congress to cover ingredients that are widely known to be safe, like vegetable oil, but the rule has been taken advantage of in recent years to cover novel chemicals and is now a de facto loophole.
The Toxic Free Food Act would mandate FDA to thoroughly review chemical additives in food and prevent companies from using the weak GRAS process to self-approve these toxic additives. An independent study by the Pew Charitable Trusts found that from 2003–2013, almost all new chemicals added to were deemed by manufacturers to be GRAS. Today, an estimated 3,000 chemicals that have never been scrutinized by FDA are in use.