Food Additives

The nation’s food supply has changed dramatically since 1958 when the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) established its program to regulate chemicals added to food. Over that time, Americans have significantly increased their consumption of processed foods, which often contain large amounts of chemical additives, yet concerns have been raised by industry and consumers alike that the FDA’s regulatory science has not kept pace.

Pew's food additives project objectively considers the science and potential risks posed by chemicals that food manufacturers include in their production. We begin by conducting a thorough review of published data and research to determine whether there are scientific or regulatory gaps in the FDA food additive program. As part of this review, the food additives project will also undertake a thorough analysis of the federal “Generally Recognized as Safe” (GRAS) program, which allows a manufacturer to convene a group of experts to assess the safety of a chemical and permit it to be added to food without involving the FDA.  In addition, the Project will evaluate how the FDA responds to recent scientific research that identifies potential health risks from food additives.

The food additives project, working with toxicology experts from academia, will conduct a comprehensive assessment of the FDA’s regulatory oversight of chemicals added to food and will publish a series of peer-reviewed articles and reports on key issues and, when warranted, disseminate recommendations for improving the FDA’s review process.

For more information, visit Pew's food additives project.


  • Navigating the U.S. Food Additive Regulatory Program

    Oct 26, 2011 - The Food Additives Amendment of 1958 is the foundation for the U.S. food additive regulatory program, which oversees most substances added to food. This article is a comprehensive review of the program, and includes original analysis of pre- and postmarket safety standards for various categories and subcategories of substances and their uses. It explains the different ways that the more than 10,000 substances currently allowed in human food are regulated, and discusses how the safety reviews of those chemicals are completed by food companies, trade associations, or federal agencies such as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

  • Workshop Proceedings: FDA’s Evaluation of Science to Ensure Chemicals Added to Human Food are Safe

    Oct 26, 2011 - The Pew Charitable Trusts, the Institute of Food Technologists, and the journal Nature brought together over 80 experts in science and food policy from government, industry, academia, and public interest organizations to examine the principles underlying the development and use of scientific evidence needed to evaluate possible hazards posed by chemicals added to food.  Participants discussed challenges of identifying adverse health effects, advances in science, uses of new screening technologies and human biomonitoring data, updating of study designs, and development and review of toxicity test guidelines.

  • Pre-Workshop Materials: Enhancing FDA’s Evaluation of Science to Ensure Chemicals Added to Human Food Are Safe

    Apr 05, 2011 - The workshop, co-sponsored by Nature journal, the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT), and the Pew Heath Group, brought together more than 80 scientists and policymakers to develop a shared understanding of the current system FDA uses to assess the hazards of chemicals added to human food and explore opportunities to strengthen that system.

Related Content

Media Coverage

E-Alerts & Newsletter

Stay updated with Pew News Now! We invite you to sign up to receive our weekly e-mail newsletter.

(All Fields are required)