On March 9, 1977, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced that a study in laboratory rats conducted by the Canadian government confirmed that saccharin is an animal carcinogen. For this reason, the agency stated, the sweetener must be banned from human food.

The studies which Congress mandated, to be accompanied by the recommendations of the Secretary of HEW, are likely to generate a fundamental reexamination of the nation's current food safety policies. This Article attempts to aid this inquiry by explaining the requirements of the present law. The Article describes the several statutory provisions that govern the regulation of food constituents and analyzes the FDA's implementation of them. Its primary objective is to provide a common starting place for discussion of the contours of future policy. A subsequent article will examine in detail various approaches to regulating risks posed by food and recommend specific reforms of the present law.