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Regulatory View: The Taste Test

Contact Author Tim Adams
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In the 1990s, the flavor industry became increasingly global. Since 1993, the flavor industry has committed to an international program in which all flavoring substances in use in the global marketplace will be recognized as safe for their intended use in food. The globalization of the flavor industry has had a significant impact on the activities of the FEMA Expert Panel, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and international committees such as the World Health Organization Joint Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA), the Food Agriculture Organization (FAO), and the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). During the last decade, these committees and panels have become actively involved in the safety evaluation of flavoring substances.

FEMA Expert Panel For its part, the FEMA Expert Panel has engaged in an extensive review of all scientific data relevant to the safety evaluation of existing FEMA GRAS substances. Beginning in 1994, the Expert Panel has reevaluated all relevant scientific information and reaffirmed the GRAS status (GRASr) of almost 1,500 flavoring substances. When necessary, the Panel has requested that additional studies be performed in order to complete the GRASr process.

Evaluation of such a large number of substances has been a monumental task. Based on more than four decades of experience, the Panel has concluded that structurally related substances exhibiting similar biological, biochemical and chemical properties, can be effectively evaluated as a chemical group. Over the last decade, the Panel has organized more than 1,500 flavoring substances according to relatively few (ca. 40) chemical groups. The Panel then evaluates each substance based on the data available for that substance and on structurally related substances.