Perspectives on How FDA Assesses Exposure to Food Additives When Evaluating Their Safety: Workshop Proceedings


  • Author disclosures: All authors are employed by The Pew Charitable Trusts, 901 E St., NW Washington, DC 20004, U.S.A. Funding for the workshop and preparation of this article was provided solely by The Pew Charitable Trusts.


Food additives and substances considered “generally recognized as safe” must not be allowed in food unless there is a reasonable certainty in the minds of competent scientists that the substance is not harmful under the intended conditions of use. Scientists determine safety by ensuring that the expected exposure is less than the acceptable daily intake. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) provides guidance documents to assist safety assessors in this analysis. A November 2011 workshop sponsored by The Pew Charitable Trusts, the Institute of Food Technologists, and the journal Nature reviewed the agency's exposure assessment approaches. More than 70 experts from government (including FDA), industry, academia, and public interest organizations examined the principles underlying dietary exposure assessments for substances added to human food, and responded to questions about current methods. FDA's approach was seen as serving the agency reasonably well, but participants identified opportunities for improvement. Although reaching a consensus was not a goal, general agreements emerged that FDA should develop a science-based framework to prioritize and reassess prior safety decisions, and conduct more extensive postmarket monitoring. Participants discussed the possibility of harmonizing different approaches to assess dietary exposure. They generally agreed that collaboration, communication, and exchanging scientific information between agencies and stakeholders would help assessors use the most current information to make better decisions. Participants identified data gaps and opportunities to fill the gaps using new tools and technologies. Participants generally agreed on the need to consider all dietary sources in a cumulative dietary exposure assessment.