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Pediatricians Have Health Concerns About All the Additives In Food

The American Academy of Pediatrics (representing 67,000 pediatricians) has come out with a statement expressing serious health concerns about the Food and Drug Administration's  (FDA) lax regulation of chemicals added to food and food packaging - such as additives, BPA, colors, flavors, nitrates, nitrites, etc. They also list ways that this problem could be fixed (Congress needs to pass legislation!), and also give some steps on how people can lower their exposure to these chemicals.

A panel of experts representing the group issued both a technical report and a statement which talked about the scientific evidence (which grows yearly) against such compounds such as bisphenol A (BPA), phthalates, perfluoroalkyl chemicals (PFCs) used in grease-proof paper, certain colors (dyes), and preservatives. These chemicals can enter into the body and cause harm or health problems, for example  by disrupting crucial biological processes such as the endocrine (hormone) system and immune system. A number of these chemicals are thought to mimic or suppress natural hormones - they are endocrine disruptors. Children and developing fetuses are especially vulnerable to long-term effects. They also expressed concern with nonpersistent pesticides.

Many of the chemicals currently in the food supply "have not been tested at all, while others have not been tested for endocrine disruption or their impact on brain development, and their effect on children's health is still unknown," said Trasande, the paper's lead author and an associate professor of pediatrics at New York University School of Medicine in New York. This is because the old required tests are too simplistic, too crude, using old out-dated technology and knowledge.

The American Academy of pediatrics points out in the statement that currently: "more than 10 000 chemicals are allowed to be added to food and food contact materials in the United States, either directly or indirectly, under the 1958 Food Additives Amendment to the 1938 Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FFDCA)". Many of these were grandfathered in for use by the federal government before the 1958 amendment, and an estimated 1000 chemicals are used under a “generally recognized as safe” (GRAS) designation process..."  Whew.... so many chemicals...

Is there a problem with GRAS? Of the approximate 1,000 GRAS compounds added to food and food packaging, the large majority were designated as such by either the company that manufactures them or a paid consultant. (Do you see a problem here? The conflicts of interest are huge - the fox is guarding the chickens.)

How can you personally lower your exposure to all these chemicals? 1) Eat as many fresh fruits and vegetables as possible, and avoid eating canned foods (the can lining has BPA or other just as worrisome chemicals - bisphenols), 2) Avoid processed meat, especially during pregnancy (nitrates, nitrites, etc), 3) Avoid microwaving food or liquids in plastic containers (chemicals leach out) - including infant formula and breastmilk, 4) Avoid putting plastics in the dishwasher (chemicals leach out), 5) Use alternatives to plastic such as glass and stainless steel, 6) 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, 7) Wash  hands before eating, and wash fruits and vegetables that cannot be peeled. 8) Also - read the ingredients on all labels, and look for "real" ingredients and try to avoid colors, additives, artificial or natural flavors.

Some excerpts from Science Daily:  Food additives a toxic mix for kids

Chemicals used to preserve, package and enhance food can harm children's health, a leading pediatricians' group says. A growing mound of scientific evidence has linked these chemicals to changes in children's hormone systems, which can alter their normal development and increase their risk of childhood obesity, the new American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) policy statement argues.

The chemical culprits - Some chemicals that affect food safety include: - Bisphenols like BPA, which are used in plastics and the lining of metal cans. They can act like estrogen in the body, affecting onset of puberty, decreasing fertility, increasing body fat and affecting the nervous and immune systems. -Phthalates, which are found in plastics and vinyl tubes used in industrial food production. These chemicals can affect male genital development, increase childhood obesity and contribute to heart disease. - Perfluoroalkyl chemicals (PFCs), used in grease-proof paper food packaging. They might reduce immunity, birth weight and fertility, and can affect the thyroid system. - Percholate, which is added to dry food packaging to control static electricity. It also is known to disrupt thyroid function and can affect early brain development. - Artificial food colors, which have been associated with worsened attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) symptoms. - Nitrates and nitrites, which are used to preserve food and enhance color, particularly in cured and processed meats. These chemicals can interfere with thyroid hormone production, and have been linked with gastrointestinal and nervous system cancers.

"There is now a compelling body of evidence that the environmental chemicals that go into food processing and food containers may have significant effects on human health, including fertility, thyroid disease, certain cancers and much more," Grosso said. "Of concern is that some of these remain in the body for years."

"PFCs can alter thyroid function and metabolic changes. Perchlorate, nitrates and nitrites disrupt thyroid hormone production and inhibit iodine uptake in the body," King explained. "Iodine is extremely important in promoting growth and metabolism in children. Iodine is also essential for early brain and neurological development. Having an iodine deficiency could ultimately lead to poor growth and delayed [thinking] ability," she said.

The technical report lists endocrine disruption, obesogenic activity, immunosuppression, cardiotoxicity, and decreased birth weight as among the most serious effects identified in some widely used classes of additives, which may include chemicals added to wrapping or packaging materials, as well as those added directly to food.

The statement addresses 2 broad categories of additives: direct and indirect. Indirect additives refers to substances in "food contact materials," such as "adhesives, dyes, coatings, paper, paperboard, plastic, and other polymers," the authors of the policy statement explain. Direct food additives include chemicals such as colorings, flavorings, and preservatives added to food during processing.

The actual statement by the American Academy of Pediatrics in the journal Pediatrics:  Food Additives and Child Health

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