In the current (August 2018) issue of the journal Pediatrics, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) issued a strongly worded Policy Statement with and accompanying Technical Report saying that there is a growing amount of ¨evidence that some chemicals found in food colorings, preservatives, and packaging materials may harm children’s health.¨ This is a topic that us Naturopathic doctors (especially those of us who work with children) have been saying for decades. This new-found mainstream awareness of the problem is showing that we may be approaching a critical mass for change. Recent research of many of these chemicals shows that we are learning more and more about the possible negative effects of these agents that are commonly used in food processing and packaging.
You can read the published Policy Statement in the journal Pediatrics here: http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/142/2/e20181408
And a summary of the Policy statement on the American Academy of Pediatrics website here: https://www.aap.org/en-us/about-the-aap/aap-press-room/Pages/AAP-Says-Some-Common-Food-Additives-May-Pose-Health-Risks-to-Children.aspx
The AAP identified 6 categories of food additives and packaging materials that are especially dangerous. On their website they list them and describe the potential exposures and problems with them:
- Bisphenols, such as BPA, used to harden plastic containers and line metal cans, can act like estrogen in the body and potentially change the timing of puberty, decrease fertility, increase body fat, and affect the nervous and immune systems. BPA is now banned in baby bottles and sippy cups.
- Phthalates, which makes plastic and vinyl tubes used in industrial food production flexible, may affect male genital development, increase childhood obesity, and contribute to cardiovascular disease. In 2017, the Consumer Product Safety Commission banned the use of some phthalates in child-care products such as teething rings.
- Perfluoroalkyl chemicals (PFCs), used in grease-proof paper and cardboard food packaging, may reduce immunity, birth weight, and fertility. Research also shows PFCs may affect the thyroid system, key to metabolism, digestion, muscle control, brain development, and bone strength.
- Perchlorate, added to some dry food packaging to control static electricity, is known to disrupt thyroid function, early life brain development and growth.
- Artificial food colors, common in children’s food products, may be associated with worsened attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) symptoms. Studies cited in the report found a significant number of children who cut synthetic food colorings from their diets showed decreased ADHD symptoms.
- Nitrates/nitrites are used to preserve food and enhance color, especially in cured and processed meats. These chemicals can interfere with thyroid hormone production and the blood’s ability to deliver oxygen in the body. Nitrates and nitrites also have been linked with gastrointestinal and nervous system cancers.
They describe why children are especially vulnerable as they often eat larger amounts of these foods (esp compared to body size) so are being exposed more than others. Also, children are especially vulnerable to endocrine disruptors like BPA, phthalates, and PFCs before puberty as small exposures can have lifelong consequences at this stage.
The AAP is calling for a revamping of how the FDA regulates food additives and packaging, saying the current system is ineffective for making sure our children are kept safe. They are calling for more research in this area. They are also calling on Congress to pass laws to protect children from this growing problem.
And they also make recommendations to families to protect themselves from exposures. I have to admit that these recommendations seem downright Naturopathic and I think I have told my patients every one of these over the years. Again, from the AAP website:
- Buy and serve more fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables, and fewer processed meats–especially during pregnancy.
- Since heat can cause plastics to leak BPA and phthalates into food, avoid microwaving food or beverages (including infant formula and pumped human milk) in plastic when possible. Also try to avoid putting plastics in the dishwasher.
- Use alternatives to plastic, such as glass or stainless steel, when possible.
- Avoid plastics with recycling codes 3 (phthalates), 6 (styrene), and 7 (bisphenols) unless they are labeled as “biobased” or “greenware.”
- Wash hands thoroughly before and after touching food and clean all fruits and vegetables that cannot be peeled.
The policy report calls the problem ¨Urgent¨ and says that policy makers need to act quickly to stem off this problem. I don´t always agree with conventional medical academies and associations, but I do have to applaud the American Academy of Pediatrics for this important and needed recommendation. I agree wholeheartedly with everything they wrote and I encourage you to spread this information around and share with your legislators that this needs to be followed through.