We are what we eat: Regulatory gaps in the United States that put our health at risk

PLoS Biol. 2017 Dec 20;15(12):e2003578. doi: 10.1371/journal.pbio.2003578. eCollection 2017 Dec.


The American diet has changed dramatically since 1958, when Congress gave the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) the authority to ensure the safety of chemicals in food. Since then, thousands of chemicals have entered the food system. Yet their long-term, chronic effects have been woefully understudied, their health risks inadequately assessed. The FDA has been sluggish in considering scientific knowledge about the impact of exposures-particularly at low levels and during susceptible developmental stages. The agency's failure to adequately account for the risks of perchlorate-a well-characterized endocrine-disrupting chemical-to vulnerable populations is representative of systemic problems plaguing the regulation of chemicals in food. Today, we are faced with a regulatory system that, weakened by decades of limited resources, has fallen short of fully enforcing its mandates. The FDA's inability to effectively manage the safety of hundreds of chemicals is putting our children's health at risk.

MeSH terms

  • Endocrine Disruptors / isolation & purification
  • Endocrine Disruptors / toxicity
  • Food Analysis / economics
  • Food Analysis / ethics*
  • Food Analysis / methods
  • Food Safety*
  • Health Policy*
  • Humans
  • Perchlorates / isolation & purification
  • Perchlorates / toxicity
  • United States
  • United States Food and Drug Administration / ethics
  • United States Food and Drug Administration / legislation & jurisprudence*


  • Endocrine Disruptors
  • Perchlorates
  • perchlorate

Grant support

The authors received no specific funding for this work.