A new report from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) published in the August edition of Pediatrics is calling for stricter regulations surrounding food safety in the US. The AAP particularly wants to warn parents about the dangers associated with reheating several types of plastic via microwaves and dishwashers.
Experts looked at several studies and determined that "chemicals found in food colorings, preservatives, and packaging materials may harm children's health." The report listed the dangers of certain substances, like bisphenols, phthalates, and nitrates — indirect additives that are often found in foods' processing and packaging — that can be especially hazardous to infants and kids.
"We're especially concerned about significant gaps in data about the health effects of many of these chemicals on infants and children."
"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," said the report. "Also try to avoid putting plastics in the dishwasher."
Currently, the FDA doesn't have the authority to retest packaging on items that have already been approved for the market, so the AAP has drummed up some ways parents can keep their children safe from these potentially harmful chemicals:
- 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. 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 your hands thoroughly before and after touching food, and clean all fruits and vegetables that cannot be peeled.
Dr. Leonardo Trasande, MD, an AAP Council on Environmental Health member and lead author of the policy statement, said that enforcing these guidelines should be a top priority for parents.
"There are critical weaknesses in the current food additives regulatory process, which doesn't do enough to ensure all chemicals added to foods are safe enough to be part of a family's diet," he said. "As pediatricians, we're especially concerned about significant gaps in data about the health effects of many of these chemicals on infants and children."