Delaney nearing revision

The longstanding battle to reform the decades-old Delaney Clause, which prohibits the use of any carcinogenic additive in processed food, is moving forward in Congress.

Food-contact packaging is often considered a secondary additive by federal regulators. For the past several years, opponents of Delaney have been attempting to eliminate its zero-tolerance standard. The clause was written at a time when substances could not be measured with the resolution that's possible with current technology. Today's sensitive measuring equipment can detect up to parts per trillion of a substance; at that resolution, many additives that were previously acceptable now fall under the purview of the Delaney Clause. Delaney opponents would replace the zero-tolerance standard with a negligible risk standard. But controversy has arisen over what constitutes "negligible risk." Some consumer groups oppose any weakening of Delaney. Republicans have tried to blunt criticism of the negligible risk criterion in a major pesticide reform bill that would affect crops used by food processors. Their strategy was to include language allowing the Environmental Protection Agency to set a standard for the use of pesticides that is "safe." No word yet on whether Democrats will accept this concession.

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