by Eric F. Greenberg
Generally recognized as controversial
Eric F. Greenberg | Attorney-at-Law
General recognition of safety is a bedrock concept underlying food safety and regulation. But it’s widely misunderstood. Lately, organizations in and out of government have expressed discomfort because the law is set up to allow companies to use substances in food on the basis of an independent determination that the use is both safe and generally recognized as such, without having to get FDA approval or even let them know.
The record of GRAS substances, though, appears to be largely safe, so it’s not clear any new procedures or laws are warranted. Those who call for more action appear to be surprised to learn that companies, not regulators, always bear the primary responsibility to assure that what they put into food is safe.
GRAS, or Generally Recognized As Safe, is the highest status a use of a substance in food can achieve, reflecting not only that it’s safe when used that way, but that its safety is publicly known and not particularly controversial, that is, that the safety of the use is “generally recognized” by relevant scientists.