GAO: FDA should strengthen ingredient oversight
Associated Press Writer
WASHINGTON – Congressional investigators say the Food and Drug Administration should pay more attention to the safety of some food ingredients, including one involved in a widespread recall this week.
A report released Friday by the Government Accountability Office points out that some spices, artificial flavors and other ingredients are not subject to frequent safety reviews by the FDA because the agency or manufacturers deem them “generally recognized as safe.” A flavor-enhancing hydrolyzed vegetable protein recalled Thursday due to salmonella contamination is among those ingredients.
The investigators said the FDA has not done enough to review the substances and recommends the agency require companies making or using them to provide the government with more information.
Other substances “generally recognized as safe” include salt, trans fats found in partially hydrogenated vegetable oils, spices, artificial flavors, emulsifiers, binders, vitamins, minerals and preservatives intended to enhance a food’s taste, texture, nutritional content or shelf life, according to the report, which notes increasing public concern about salt and trans fat.
The FDA “agrees broadly” that its oversight of such ingredients could be strengthened, spokeswoman Rita Chappelle said in a statement Friday.
The recall of hydrolyzed vegetable protein – an ingredient found in thousands of processed foods, including dried soups, dips and dressings – is expected to expand. After more than 50 products were recalled Thursday, several new recalls were announced Friday, including four dip, gravy and stuffing mixes made by McCormick & Co.
The recall involves hydrolyzed vegetable protein made by Las Vegas-based Basic Food Flavors Inc. Salmonella, an organism that can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children and others with weakened immune systems, was found on the company’s processing equipment, the FDA said.
Many products that contain the ingredient are not dangerous because cooking them eliminates the risk of salmonella. No illnesses or deaths have been reported. FDA officials said they believe the risk to consumers is low.
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