Do You Know Nutrition: There are lists of Generally Regarded As Safe food additives

By Phylis Canion
Nov. 6, 2012 at 5:06 a.m.

Phylis Canion

Phylis Canion

You have mentioned in several of your columns the word GRAS. Can you explain what GRAS means? I saw a product at the store recently that was labeled GRAS but nowhere could I find on the product what that meant. Is there a list available of GRAS-approved foods?

GRAS stands for Generally Regarded As Safe and was originally coined in 1958 by the Food and Drug Administration for the Food Additive Amendment. Under sections 201 and 409 of the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act, any substance that is intentionally added to food is a food additive and is subject to premarket review and approval by the FDA.

Subject to, but not mandated. Only if the substance is generally recognized by a panel of qualified experts as having been adequately shown to be safe under the conditions of its intended use can it be listed as GRAS.

According to the FDA website,, the FDA has several lists of GRAS items, although these lists are not all-inclusive. Because the use of a GRAS substance is not required for approval by the FDA, it is impracticable to list all substances that are listed in foods on the basis of the GRAS provision.

According to the FDA website, a partial list of food ingredients whose use is Generally Regarded As Safe was to aid the industry's understanding of what did not require approval. Simply stated: "Can the use of a product be labeled as GRAS even it is not on a list by the FDA?" The answer is yes.

Am I the only one concerned about the toxins we are eating?

Is it true that heavy exposure to BPA toxins can cause genetalia deformities in boys?

In a recent issue of Environmental Health Perspectives (113: 1056-1061), there was a study on certain phthalates, a family of compounds used widely in plastics and personal care products, including plastic bottles, cosmetics, pharmaceutical pill coatings, children's toys, shampoos, body lotions, shower curtains, automotive parts like dashboards, hairsprays, nail polish and tools, to name a few.

These phthalates can cause cluster effects called the "phthalate syndrome," which includes demasculinization of the male reproductive tract, increases in the likelihood of undescended testes, lowered sperm counts and testicular tumors in adulthood. It is the first human study linking prenatal phthalate exposure to adverse effects on the male productive system.

An exceptional book that details how the toxic chemistry of everyday life affects our health is "Slow Death By Rubber Duck." You will find it hard to put down until the final page.

The next free nutrition class is at 7 p.m. Nov. 12 at the Organic Emporium. Call today to make your reservation at 361-576-2100.

Phylis B. Canion is a doctor of naturopathic medicine and is a certified nutritional consultant, e-mail her at This column is for nutritional information only and is not intended to treat, diagnose or cure.



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