Important Steps to Protect Children from Food Additives
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) just published a technical report with important recommendations on ways to protect children from food additives by reducing exposure. They also released a statement urging for “substantial improvements to the food additives regulatory system.” With over 10,000 chemicals allowed to be added to food / food materials in the U.S., the group is calling for more a rigorous testing of chemicals and a re-testing process on chemicals that were previously approved by the FDA many years ago, to make sure that they are not toxic.
Common Food Additives
Because children are still growing and developing, they are very sensitive to chemical exposures. Concerns over food additives have grown in recent years as studies continue to show “adverse health effects.” In particular, endocrine system disruption, which can have lifelong effects, is a great concern. Chemicals highlighted in the report include:
- Bisphenols, which are used in the lining of metal cans to prevent corrosion – can increase fat cells, decrease fertility, and affect nervous and immune system health.
- Phthalates, which are often used in adhesives, lubricants, and plasticizers during the manufacturing process – may affect male genital development, increase childhood obesity, and contribute to cardiovascular disease.
- Perfluoroalkyl chemicals (PFCs), which are used in grease-proof paper and packaging – may affect thyroid health, digestion, and brain development.
- Perchlorate, an antistatic agent used for plastic packaging in contact with dry foods – disrupts thyroid function, brain development and growth.
- Artificial food colors – may be associated with ADD/ADHD.
- Nitrates and nitrites, which are used for preservation or color enhancement, particularly in meats – interfere with thyroid function, contribute to GI and nervous system cancers.
Ways to Reduce Exposure to Food Additives
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, here are seven ways to reduce exposure to food additives:
- Prioritize consumption of fresh or frozen fruits.
- Avoid processed meats, especially maternal consumption during pregnancy.
- Avoid microwaving food or beverages (including infant formula and pumped human milk) in plastic, if possible.
- Avoid placing plastics in the dishwasher.
- Use alternatives to plastic, such as glass or stainless steel, when possible.
- Look at the recycling code on the bottom of products to find the plastic type and avoid plastics with recycling codes 3 (phthalates), 6 (styrene), and 7 (bisphenols) unless plastics are labeled as biobased" or "greenware,” indicating that they are made from corn and do not contain bisphenols.
- Wash hands before handling foods and/or drinks and wash all fruits and vegetables that cannot be peeled.
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