Food Packaging Materials Expose Us To More Than 4,000 Chemicals

bottled water

Did you have any idea that there are over 4,000 chemicals allowed in foods sold in both Europe and the United States? With most of these chemicals stemming from synthetic materials that package the food, these synthetics are extremely troublesome; while bisphenol A, a common plastic polymer used to line things like aluminum soda cans, garnering the most nationwide scrutiny, it’s definitely not the only dangerous chemical lurking in your food packages.

Polyethylene terephthalate, which is also known as the #1 plastic used for bottled water, sodas, and other drinks, carry trace amounts of formaldehyde. The Food and Drug Administration permits a kind of asbestos to “fill-in” certain rubber packaging materials. The FDA even indicates that parabens, which are chemical preservatives associated with hormone disruption while also being thought to potentially promote breast cancer, are allowed in many of our foods.

And those are just three of the over 4,000 chemicals that are often seen in our grub and its packages. In an editorial from the British Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, head author as well as managing director and chief scientific officer of the Food Packaging Forum, Jane Muncke, PhD, writes that these food materials present a “silent challenge to researchers concerned with human health, nutrition and the environment.”

The writing also discusses “non-intentionally added substances” we should be wary of, which include imperfections that break down products from food packaging and food processing equipment. Researchers from the University of Texas School of Public Health discovered copious amounts of industrial flame retardants in butter, with the suspected source being the equipment used for printing waxed paper wrappers.

Understanding the health impacts of all these sneaky chemicals is practically impossible, they admit, perhaps because we’re all exposed to them anyways. Maybe you try, say, lowering your processed food consumption– but you’ll still probably end up coming into contact with chemicals from plastics that wrap your local farmer’s meat, or the plastic bins that carry bulk grains and beans, or even the plastics that line your refrigerator.

While this might serve as a scare for many, at least one researcher thinks we shouldn’t blow things out of proportion. Ian Musgrave, MD, a molecular toxicologist at Australia’s Unversity of Adelaide, explained to the publication Food Quality News that a person would need to drink slightly more than five gallons of bottled water carried in #1 plastics to be exposed to identical levels of formaldehyde in just one 3.5-ounce apple.

And who’s going to stop eating apples?


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