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FDA hasn't reviewed some food additives in decades

Source: CBS Los Angeles

Cristina Ochoa often worries if the food she's feeding her two young kids is safe, even after carefully reading ingredient labels. 

"Some ingredients I have no idea what they are, how to pronounce them," she said. "I want the best for my children. I would think that as a society we want the best for our children." 

There are more than 10,000 chemicals and additives allowed in food in the United States, often in small amounts. But many haven't been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration in decades. The majority are safe, but some chemicals allowed in the U.S. have been banned overseas after research has linked them to cancer and developmental or behavioral issues. 

Democratic Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky, of Illinois, introduced a bill requiring the FDA to review certain chemicals banned overseas and to close what's known as the "generally recognized as safe" loophole. The loophole allows companies to skip an extensive safety review when adding many new chemicals to food. 

Schakowsky said the food industry is essentially policing itself. 

"We look around the world and you see what the other countries are doing to protect their consumers, we are far behind," she said. "We need to put the F back into the Food and Drug Administration." 

CBS News has obtained a copy of proposed legislation in California that would make it the first U.S. state to ban five common chemicals — brominated vegetable oil, potassium bromate, propylparaben, red dye 3 and titanium dioxide — from all goods sold, distributed or made in the state. 

"They're going to have to change their recipes, get rid of these chemicals, and hopefully that's something that's going to have impacts far beyond our borders here in the state of California," said Jesse Gabriel, a California state Assemblymember. 

The FDA told CBS News that its scientists keep up to date on food safety research, but that it's also the responsibility of the food industry to make sure the substances used are safe. 

Ochoa says the FDA needs to do more. 

"We're trusting them," she said. "This is the food that is feeding our future. I want them to be held to a higher standard."