The GRAS is Never Greener


No, I don’t mean “grass." I mean GRAS as in “Generally Recognized As Safe." Now, before I get into it, a little on food politics... The United States Food and Drug Administration The FDA is responsible for protecting and promoting public health through the regulation and supervision of food safety, tobacco products, dietary supplements, prescription and over-the-counter pharmaceutical drugs (medications), vaccines, biopharmaceuticals, blood transfusions, medical devices, electromagnetic radiation emitting devices (ERED), veterinary products, and cosmetics. (Adapted from Wikipedia)

Food Additives Food additives are natural or synthetic substances that are normally neither consumed as a food itself nor used as a food ingredient, but are intentionally added to food (usually in small quantities) to assist in its processing or to “improve” its certain characteristics such as aroma, color, consistency, taste, texture, packaging, and/or shelf life. Additives are not considered nutritional even if they have some nutritive value. (Adapted from Business Dictionary)

Generally Recognized ASafe (GRAS) In 1958, the FDA’s Federal Food Drug and Cosmetic Act (FD&C Act) was amended so certain food ingredients with a long history of use were exempt from the pre-market evaluation and approval processes. Such additives fell under a new FDA designation—Generally Recognized As Safe—meaning that these additives are considered “safe” by “experts” and so are exempt from the FD&C Act’s usual food additive tolerance requirements.

So, what’s the problem here? While I’d like to believe that this regulatory agency is here to protect us, I question to what extent. A few points:

  • Just because certain food ingredients have a long history of use, DOES NOT mean that they are truly SAFE (despite what the very few and possibly flawed clinical studies conclude)
  • While agar, a gel derived from red algae is GRAS (and truly safe) so is Monosodium glutamate (MSG), a chemical flavor enhancer that has adverse side effects for many (just google it!)
  • And artifical flavors, colors (like FD&C Red #40) and sweeteners are also GRAS

Now, as far as I’m concerned, we have a HUGE problem on our hands.


Stefanie: GRAS is a little wishy washy—some safe, some not so safe. You get light-headed from MSG or create a perfect storm for cancer with all the “artificials”, but what the heck, not a big deal!!! It’s only your health.

Sadly, we have no way of knowing how safe these foodstuffs really are. The government chose not to put them through rigorous testing (remember, they are all GRAS). Way too much time and money (and food industry pressure for sure). So, I guess we, the people, are the guinea pigs. And, we the people are getting sicker. Hmmm...

Thus, it is up to us to educate ourselves (and me to help educate you). So let me cut through the riff raff and give you some tools. Ladies and gentleman, it is time to clean out your pantry and palette! Believe it or not, consumers in the end, have the power. So, let’s take that power back by getting smarter:

  • Buy A Consumer’s Dictionary of Food Additives by Ruth Winter, M.S (this is the down and dirty truth)
  • Download I phone app DON’T EAT THAT
  • Start to REALLY read your labels and if you don’t know what something is, LOOK IT UP (in the aforementioned book or on the I phone app)
  • Do your best to stick with food that is made with FOOD not FOOD ADDITIVES
  • Avoid MSG and any and all artificial flavors, colors and sweeteners and chemical preservatives like Disodium EDTA, potassium sorbate, etc.
  • Create “bad food boundaries” at home so you are eating mostly clean cuisine
  • Demand clean food in your schools

I often get asked, “Why do you believe our nation is so sick?” My answer, “What do we put into our bodies everyday?” The grass will always be greener if we begin to eat more consciously!!!