Food Safety: FDA Oversight of Substances Used in Manufacturing, Packaging, and Transporting Food Could Be Strengthened

2022-11-08

Food processing and packaging can introduce non-food substances, such as those used to greaseproof paper takeout containers, into food. Some of these substances may pose health risks.

FDA reviews information on the safety of such substances before their first use. As new information becomes available that suggests a substance may pose a health risk, FDA will occasionally reevaluate it based on the new information. But, FDA doesn’t have specific authority to require companies to provide the information that the agency may need for such reviews—so re-evaluation may not be possible.

We recommended that FDA request this authority from Congress.

What GAO Found

The Department of Health and Human Services’ Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has primary responsibility for reviewing the safety of food contact substances before and after they enter the market. These substances come into contact with food during processes such as manufacturing, packaging, and transporting food (see fig.). Such substances may migrate into food, where they could pose a risk to human health. FDA conducts premarket reviews of the safety of substances largely by reviewing companies’ submissions of supporting evidence before substances enter the market. FDA bases its postmarket reviews on safety information, including new information published since the substance’s initial approval for use.

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US GAO, 8-11-22
; https://www.gao.gov/products/gao-23-104434