American Academy of Pediatrics reports on Food Additives & Child Health
July 26, 2018 8:47 AM   Subscribe

American Academy of Pediatrics Says Some Common Food Additives May Pose Health Risks to Children. According to the statement in the August 2018 Pediatrics, “Food Additives and Child Health” (DOI link; published online July 23), some currently allowed chemicals may best be avoided--especially for children. The technical report can be read here (DOI link).

Per AAP's policy statement, chemicals of increasing concern include the following:
  • bisphenols, which are used in the lining of metal cans to prevent corrosion;
  • phthalates, which are esters of diphthalic acid that are often used in adhesives, lubricants, and plasticizers during the manufacturing process;
  • nonpersistent pesticides, which have been addressed in a previous policy statement from the American Academy of Pediatrics and, thus, will not be discussed in this statement;
  • perfluoroalkyl chemicals (PFCs), which are used in grease-proof paper and packaging; and
  • perchlorate, an antistatic agent used for plastic packaging in contact with dry foods with surfaces that do not contain free fat or oil and also present as a degradation product of bleach used to clean food manufacturing equipment.
Additional compounds of concern discussed in the accompanying technical report include artificial food colors (AFCs; "Elimination of AFCs from the diet may provide benefits to children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder"), nitrates and nitrites ("There has been longstanding concern regarding the use of nitrates and nitrites as preservatives in cured and processed meats, fish, and cheese").

It is difficult to know how to reduce exposures to many of these chemicals, but some recommendations are cited here. Insofar as these modifications can pose additional costs, barriers may exist for low-income families to reduce their exposure to food additives of concern. Pediatricians may wish to tailor guidance in the context of practicality, especially because food insecurity remains a substantial child health concern.
  • Prioritize consumption of fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables when possible, and support that effort by developing a list of low-cost sources for fresh fruits and vegetables.
  • 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.
  • Encourage hand-washing before handling foods and/or drinks, and wash all fruits and vegetables that cannot be peeled.
Pediatricians also can advocate for modernization of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FFDCA), which is of unique importance for low-income populations who may not be as readily able to reduce exposure to food additives.
“The good news is there are safe and simple steps people can take right now to limit exposures, and they don’t have to break the bank,” said Dr. Leonardo Trasande, the lead author of the statement and chief of the division of environmental pediatrics at New York University’s School of Medicine.

“Avoiding canned food is a great way to reduce your bisphenol exposure in general, and avoiding packaged and processed food is a good way to avoid phthalates exposures,” Dr. Trasande said. He also suggested wrapping foods in wax paper in lieu of plastic wrap.

Jonathan Corley, a spokesman for the American Chemistry Council, a trade association, said: “Chemicals are critical to protecting the quality and integrity of food, help in the safe transportation and storage of food.” He said that many of the chemicals referred to in the A.A.P. statement did not act as endocrine disrupters “in typical uses and at typical exposure levels,” but did not provide scientific references to support that contention.

In a separate development, scientists at the University of California, San Francisco, who used a novel method for scanning blood said they had found dozens of chemicals called environmental organic acids, or E.O.A.s, in pregnant women.
(Quoting from the New York Times coverage, with a bonus link to the UCSF study)
posted by filthy light thief (7 comments total) 36 users marked this as a favorite
Two reasons this is coming from the AAP, and not the FDA, are described as such:
The Food Additives Amendment of 1958 was passed as an amendment to the FFDCA and was used to provide specific guidance for food additives. The legislation required a formal agency review, public comment, and open rulemaking process for new chemical additives. It also contained an exemption for common food additives, such as oil or vinegar, when used in ways that were GRAS.Under these specific scenarios, a formal rulemaking process was not required.

Despite this framework, there remain substantial gaps in data about potential health effects of food additives. A recent evaluation of 3941 direct food additives revealed that 63.9% of these had no feeding data whatsoever (either a study of the lethal dose in 50% of animals or an oral toxicology study). Only 263 (6.7%) had reproductive toxicology data, and 2 had developmental toxicology data.

This lack of data on food additives stems from 2 critical problems within the food regulatory system. First, the GRAS process, although intended to be used in limited situations, has become the process by which virtually all new food additives enter the market. Consequently, neither the FDA nor the public have adequate notice or review. The Government Accountability Office conducted an extensive review of the FDA GRAS program in 2010 and determined that the FDA is not able to ensure the safety of existing or new additives through this approval mechanism.
Second, the FDA does not have authority to obtain data on or reassess the safety of chemicals already on the market. This issue is of great importance and concern for chemicals approved decades ago on the basis of limited and sometimes antiquated testing methods.
posted by filthy light thief at 8:49 AM on July 26, 2018 [13 favorites]

We already avoid a lot of these, but it is refreshingly honest to see them all listed out like that.

And having the three recycling codes is very handy.
posted by wenestvedt at 9:53 AM on July 26, 2018 [2 favorites]

Anyone have a sense of whether aluminum foil is safer or healthier than plastic wrap?
posted by mylittlepoppet at 12:49 PM on July 26, 2018

Safe, yes. But environmentally unless you're recycling it (you need a fist sized call) not great. It takes a lot of energy to turn bauxite into aluminium.
posted by smoke at 2:20 PM on July 26, 2018 [2 favorites]

looks at kitchen

??? the food that I have that didn't show up in plastic or cans is like...onions, soy sauce, and jam. even the blueberries are in a plastic carton.

lies down on floor.
posted by bagel at 2:22 PM on July 26, 2018 [7 favorites]

It's too late for some of us.

I grew up eating canned food, microwaved tv dinners, and processed meats.

I wonder how many of my current medical problems are related?
posted by meowzilla at 3:26 PM on July 26, 2018

I'm slightly nervous, because the role of food dyes in AD/HD is right up there with discipline and television as hobbyhorses used for denialist/erasure purposes. This report, and the studies it links, are pretty circumspect.
posted by traveler_ at 6:27 PM on July 26, 2018 [1 favorite]

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