As parents, we all want our kids to be safe and healthy. This starts even before our children are born. We research what to do and what not to do. Pregnant moms avoid certain foods and beverages.
Then, once our babies are here and ready to eat their first bite of baby food, the research begins on purees versus baby-led weaning. If the decision lands with purees, then the question is whether to make them oneself or to buy them from a store, and if buying them, which brand?
One question that doesn’t get asked often enough, if at all, is if the containers that our children’s food is packaged, stored and served in is safe.
We’re mainly talking about plastic here. Sure, we all know to avoid BPA, but that’s not the only chemical that may be lurking in the plastic containers your children’s food comes in or the plastic storage containers you freeze your homemade purees in, or your child’s favorite plastic plate that she uses every day.
A new report from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) warns parents that “some chemicals found in food colorings, preservatives, and packaging materials may harm children’s health.” And, by “health” they’re talking about “hormones, growth, and development” including potentially contributing to childhood obesity.
“The United States allows the use of more than 10,000 additives to preserve, package, or modify the taste, appearance, texture, or nutrients in foods. Many were grandfathered in for approval during the 1950s, and roughly 1,000 additives are used under a ‘Generally Recognized as Safe’ designation process that doesn’t require U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval.”
AAP Council on Environmental Health Chairperson Dr. Jennifer Lowry, MD, FAAP, points out that in a recent of about 4,000 food additives, 64% of them had no research at all proving that they were safe for human consumption.
While some of the concerning additives are in the food itself, many are in the packaging. Here are a few that the AAP recommends parents avoid.
- Phthalates can impact male genital development as well as increase the risk of childhood obesity and cardiovascular disease.
- Perfluoroalkyl chemicals (PFCs) can affect everything from fertility and birth weight to immunity and the thyroid system.
- Perchlorate can affect the thyroid system as well as brain growth and development.
- Artificial food colors can increase the risk of ADHD. Seriously. Cut the food coloring, and your child’s ADHD symptoms might be greatly reduced.
- Nitrates/nitrites may increase the risk of gastrointestinal and nervous system cancers. They also mess with thyroid hormone production and the body’s ability to deliver oxygen to the body through blood flow.
There are several things the AAP says parents can do to protect their children from these harmful additives. First, try to cut down on processed foods, and stick to fresh or frozen food whenever possible. Second, wash your hands before and after touching food.
Whenever possible, choose glass or metal containers instead of plastic, but if you absolutely must use plastic containers, don’t put them in the microwave or the dishwasher since heat can cause chemicals like BPA and phthalates to leak out of the plastic. Also, avoid plastic containers with the following recycling codes: “3 (phthalates), 6 (styrene), and 7 (bisphenols) unless they are labeled as “biobased” or “greenware.’”