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Food additives are being included into processed foods at such an alarming rate that not only can’t the FDA approve them all–the agency doesn’t even know some of them exist.

The Washington Post reports that food additives are at an all time high, including chemical preservatives, flavorings and thickening agents, “companies are adding secret ingredients to everything from energy drinks to granola bars.”

“We simply do not have the information to vouch for the safety of many of these chemicals,” Michael Taylor, the FDA’s deputy commissioner for food told the Post.

Concerns are now emerging over an expedited voluntary certification process, which, reports the Post, was established 17 years ago, but not for the purpose of pushing through controversial food additives. Prior to the voluntary process, the FDA determined if ingredients were safe—not the companies themselves.

Fifty years ago there were fewer than 1,000 food additives in the food supply; today there are more than 9,000. And food safety advocates and customers are finding the new approval procedure for these controversial ingredients troublesome. “The FDA has received thousands of consumer complaints about additives in recent years, saying certain substances seem to trigger asthmatic attacks, serious bouts of vomiting, intestinal-tract disorders and other health problems,” the Post explains.

Taylor told the Post that the situation isn’t “a public health crisis” but the agency does “have questions about whether we can do what people expect of us.”

Find Jill on Twitter @jillettinger

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