Schakowsky Introduces Legislation To Ensure Our Food Is Safe

July 26, 2021
Press Release

WASHINGTON – Today, Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky (IL-09), a Senior Chief Deputy Whip and Chair of the Energy and Commerce Committee’s Consumer Protection and Commerce Subcommittee, introduced the Food Chemical Reassessment Act of 2021 (FCRA) to require the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to regularly study and reassess chemicals used in food, many of which have not been reevaluated for safety in decades. Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (CT-03) joined Schakowsky in introducing the legislation.

“Consumers deserve to know that the foods they are eating are safe and free from harmful chemicals,” said Schakowsky. “That is why I am proud to introduce the Food Chemical Reassessment Act of 2021 which would require the FDA to consistently assess the chemicals that are added to our food. This will help the FDA carry out its mission of protecting our public health and ensuring the safety of our nation’s food supply.”

“A new Office of Food Safety Reassessment is critical to ensuring the safety of food additives, especially chemicals, used under the ‘generally recognized as safe’ or GRAS loophole,” said DeLauro. “American families deserve to trust that the food in our stores and supermarkets is safe. This bill is vital to that effort and will empower FDA to hold food manufacturers accountable for what they offer to the public.”

“Other countries periodically review the safety of food chemicals to reflect new science,” said Scott Faber, Senior Vice President for Government Affairs for the Environmental Working Group, a national environmental health group. “And other U.S. agencies periodically review chemical safety standards, including those for pesticides, to reflect new science. But, when it comes to FDA, food chemicals have fallen into a regulatory black hole.”

"It's very troubling that toxic chemicals have been allowed to be in food over the years,” said Brian Ronholm, Director of Food Policy for Consumer Reports. “The Schakowsky bill represents an important step in addressing this issue by requiring the FDA to reevaluate substances and chemicals that are already in the food supply to ensure they are safe."

“It is critical that the FDA start reassessing chemicals that were approved for use in our food and food packaging decades ago,” said Tom Neltner, EDF Chemicals Policy Director. “In the intervening years, evidence has emerged that many of these chemicals can harm our health – particularly children’s health.”

“Science moves on, and the FDA needs to catch up,” said Lisette van Vliet, Senior Policy Coordinator for Breast Cancer Prevention Partners. “When it comes to chemicals used in food packaging and processing, protecting our health should be the FDA's top priority.”

Currently, there are thousands of chemicals added to food to make it last longer, taste better, and look more enticing. Yet, most of these chemicals have never been reviewed by the FDA or were reviewed decades ago. Instead, these chemicals have entered our food supply through a loophole – called the GRAS, or “generally recognized as safe,” loophole – that Congress intended to apply to clearly safe ingredients like vinegar. Since this loophole was first proposed in 1997, food companies have added new substances to the food supply with almost no federal oversight.

The Food Chemical Reassessment Act of 2021 would help address the GRAS loophole by:

  • Creating an “Office of Food Safety Reassessment within the Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition at FDA to study every three years the safety of at least ten chemicals added to our nation’s food, including:
    • Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances
    • Ortho-phthalates
    • Tert-butylhydroquinone
    • Titanium dioxide
    • Potassium bromate
    • Perchlorate
    • Butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA)
    • Butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT)
    • Brominated vegetable oil (BVO)
    • Propyl paraben
  • Reestablish a food advisory committee to advise the Secretary of Health and Human Services on the standards for reassessment, and the process and methods necessary to complete the work of the office.

The Food Chemical Reassessment Act of 2021 is endorsed by Environmental Working Group, Environmental Defense Fund, Consumer Reports, Center for Science in the Public Interest, Healthy Babies Bright Futures, Breast Cancer Prevention Partners, Defend Our Health, and Earthjustice.