Tell the FDA: Toxic chemicals shouldn’t be in our food.

Toxic food chemicals highlighted in FDA budget request

EWG (June 1, 2021)

WASHINGTON – The Biden administration’s budget request for the Food and Drug Administration makes toxic chemicals in food a priority.

The administration proposed a $49 million increase in the FDA’s budget to address food safety, including additional funds to be used to review the safety of food chemicals and metals in baby foods.

“None of us should have to worry about the safety of our food,” said Scott Faber, EWG’s senior vice president for government affairs. “But for too long, the FDA has let food and chemical companies decide whether toxic ‘forever chemicals’ like PFAS, or toxic metals like lead and arsenic, are safe to eat. No wonder consumers place food chemicals ahead of pathogens when asked about food safety concerns.”

Recent studies have reinforced the need to modernize the FDA’s food chemical review system. For instance:

  • A House oversight committee report recently found high levels of toxic metals in baby food. In response, members of Congress have introduced the Baby Food Safety Act, which sets standards for lead, arsenic, cadmium and mercury.
  • A scientific panel created by the European Food Safety Authority recently found that titanium dioxide, a color additive used in Skittles and Starburst, “can no longer be considered as safe when used as a food additive.” The panel, citing concerns about titanium dioxide’s genotoxicity, or ability to damage DNA, based its conclusion on a review of hundreds of scientific studies.
  • Separately, a new peer-reviewed study by EWG found that TBHQ, a food preservative used to prolong the shelf life of Pop-Tarts, Rice Krispies Treats, Cheez-Its and almost 1,250 other popular processed foods, may harm the immune system.

Under the Trump administration, top FDA officials said the toxic fluorinated chemicals known as PFAS were not a concern. But the Biden budget request “suggests the FDA may finally decide to make the safety of food chemicals a priority,” Faber said.

Last year, EWG published “Food Additives State of the Science,” a guide that highlights additives known to increase the risk of cancer, harm the nervous system and disrupt the body’s hormonal balance. 


The Environmental Working Group is a nonprofit, non-partisan organization that empowers people to live healthier lives in a healthier environment. Through research, advocacy and unique education tools, EWG drives consumer choice and civic action.