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Washington, DC, United States

It now is possible to detect many substances in the parts per trillion and further advances will allow for even lower levels of detection. Many of these substances may always have been present in the food supply, but escaped detection. Others may have been introduced through environmental contamination, changes in food processing, sourcing of ingredients from different manufacturers or countries, and a myriad of other reasons. The adulteration and various safety provisions of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FDCA), principles of statutory construction, and case law, provide FDA with the legal authority to adopt the threshold concept. FDA and the courts have long recognized it is possible to establish safe levels of poisonous or deleterious substances found in foods. FDA routinely conducts such an analysis under the general adulteration provisions of the FDCA and has identified safe levels for numerous environmental contaminants found in food. The courts have recognized that through its exercise of enforcement discretion, FDA has the legal authority to establish non-binding defect action levels for contaminants. FDA similarly could implement the Threshold of Toxicological Concern (TTC) through its exercise of enforcement discretion.

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