Safety is the top priority of food ingredient manufacturers. Many food additives help make foods safer and more enjoyable by ensuring that foods do not spoil in transport or storage, maintain desirable characteristics, and remain uniform from batch to batch.

Food ingredient manufacturers employ rigorous practices to ensure the safety and suitability of all the substances they produce. These functional food ingredients are needed in today’s food supply in order to get food safely from the farm to the table. Food additives also help consumers enjoy a vast variety of foods that were unimaginable in the past. This is because of their vital role in assuring the quality and freshness of foods distributed in our increasingly global food supply.

Fresh foods do not stay fresh forever. Food additives significantly delay spoilage caused by microorganisms, bacteria, yeast and oxidation (the process that occurs when oxygen in air comes into contact with foods).

For example, cut apples, bananas or pears, rapidly turn brown as a result of the oxidation process. However, placing these slices in juice from lemons, limes or oranges can stop this process. Food processors do the same thing by using ascorbic acid – the principal active ingredient in citrus juice – when packaging fruit slices.

Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS)

GRAS is a legal designation that, simply put, means a substance has been shown to be safe based on review by qualified experts. This designation, first introduced by the U.S. Congress in the Food Additives Amendment of 1958, allows food manufacturers to classify an ingredient as GRAS for a specific use based on a long history of use or qualified review of publicly available scientific evidence by experts. By definition, to receive a GRAS designation evidence of the safety of the food ingredient must be available in published literature and experts must agree the evidence is strong enough to make a determination that the additive is “generally recognized” as safe. A general recognition of safety requires the same quantity and quality of scientific evidence as is required to obtain approval of the substance through the FDA’s Food Additive Petition Process. All ingredients identified on the labels of the foods you eat have either been approved through the FDA’s process or are designated as GRAS.

The GRAS process provides benefits to consumers, the FDA and manufacturers while ensuring the safety of our food supply. It is the preferred industry process because it often takes years for a food additive petition to be reviewed and approved by the FDA. The GRAS process can minimize these delays by enabling a rigorous scientific review by experts that does not require the FDA to initiate formal rulemaking or use taxpayer funding. This speed without compromising safety spurs innovation that offers consumers new and interesting foods and a greater variety of food options.