New AAP Warning On Children Packaged Food

packaged food might be bad for children
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The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has issued a policy statement and technical report that strongly expresses concern about the harmful effects of food additives on the health of children.

The statement warns that many chemicals used to color, preserve or package food hold a serious health risk for children. The statement represents nearly 70,000 pediatricians.

The groups are concerned that a growing body of scientific evidence is pointing to the fact that children are being harmed by chemicals in food and food packaging. The group wants the regulatory system to be urgently overhauled to ensure the safety of additives used in the food industry.

The report calls for stronger federal food safety requirements and outlines ways families can limit exposure to chemicals used to process, package and preserve everyday foods and which aren’t adequately proven to be safe.

According to the statement, an Increasing number of studies suggest some food additives can interfere with a child’s hormones, growth, and development. Some may also increase the risk of childhood obesity, rates of which have tripled since the 1970s.

The substances referred to comprise additives that are added directly in foods as well as so-called “indirect” additives which may include chemicals from plastic, glues, dyes, paper, cardboard, and different types of coatings used for processing and packaging food.

Shockingly, more than 10,000 chemicals are allowed to be added to food in the U.S., but the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is unable to ensure all of those chemicals are safe, says this AAP news release.

What’s more, many chemicals are used under a Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) designation without FDA approval or notification.

What does that mean? It means these chemicals are declared safe by company employees or hired consultants. They don’t go through any rigorous testing to ensure their safety for human consumption.

And that’s not all.

Of the nearly 4,000 food additives listed on the FDA’s Substances Added to Food website, you can find data on the effects on reproductive organs of about 300 chemicals, and only two have information about effects on development.

Children are particularly vulnerable to the effects of chemicals added to foods because they eat and drink more relative to their body weight in comparison to adults. Also, they are still in the process of developing.

Children are particularly vulnerable to the effects of chemicals
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“The greatest concerns are about the effects of these chemicals on the endocrine system; hormones act on all parts of the body, and even small disruptions at key moments in development can have permanent and lifelong consequences,” writes Dr Trasande, member of the AAP’s Council on Environmental Health and lead author of the policy statement.

Chemicals and substances of particular concern include:

  • Bisphenols used in polycarbonate plastic containers and linings of aluminum cans
  • Phthalates used in plastic food wraps and tubing and storage containers in industrial food production
  • Perfluoroalkyl substances used in the grease-proof paper
  • Nitrates and nitrites used as preservatives and color enhancers

The statement points out that the FDA does not have the authority to obtain data or reassess the safety of chemicals already on the market and some chemicals were approved decades ago based on limited and sometimes antiquated testing methods.

The statement calls for “urgently needed reforms” to the FDA's process.

Problem is this won’t happen overnight. According to the AAP, congressional action will be needed for some food safety laws to be changed.

In the meantime, the AAP has the following recommendations for parents to help safeguard families against harmful chemicals.

  • As far as possible eat fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables.
  • Avoid processed meats (especially expectant mothers).
  • Avoid microwaving food or beverages in plastic (including infant formula and pumped human milk).
  • Don’t put plastics in the dishwasher.
  • Use alternatives to plastic, such as glass or stainless steel.
  • Avoid plastics with recycling codes 3, 6 and 7 unless plastics are labeled as “bio-based” or “greenware”.
  • Encourage hand-washing before handling foods and/or drinks, and wash all fruits and vegetables that cannot be peeled.
packaged food might be bad for children
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Written by Zenda Nel

Zenda is a Journalist with a special interest in technology and the latest trends in health and nutrition. She bases her writing on scientific evidence rather than opinion, always keeping an open mind when it comes to new solutions to old problems. She has previously been the Editor of an international forum that focused on the empowerment of all women.