Food is a very common source of toxicant exposure to humans. An unknown number of naturally occurring contaminants find their way into food. The most ominous are products of mold growth called mycotoxins, which include the carcinogenic aflatoxins. On the other hand, more than 2500 chemical substances are added to foods to modify or impart flavor, color, stability, and texture, to fortify or enrich nutritive value, or to reduce cost. In addition, an estimated 12,000 substances are used in such a way that they may unintentionally enter the food supply. The term “food additive” is a regulatory term that encompasses any functional substance that is normally neither consumed as a food itself, but is intentionally added to food (usually in small quantities) to augment its processing or to improve aroma, color, consistency, taste, texture, or shelf life. Additives are not considered “nutritional” even if they possess nutritive value. The purpose of the present review is to give an overview of the approaches to, and procedures involved in ensuring the safety of the US food supply in the context of food additives, with particular reference to the existing and emerging scientific and regulatory landscape and consumer perceptions.

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