Dr. Todd Harris

August 8, 2018 – This month the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) published reports that bring up safety concerns about a group of chemicals commonly referred to as food additives.

These are chemicals that are very commonly used with processed foods

Chemicals of Concern

There are two types of food additives.

  1. Direct food additives – chemicals added during the processing of foods
  2. Indirect food additives – these chemicals may contact food as part of packaging or processing

Many of these chemicals have a designation known as Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS). This GRAS designation allows many chemicals to be used without FDA approval or notification. They are designated as safe by company employees or hired consultants. In its policy statement, the AAP is recommending a reassessment of this process.

Attempting to Clarify the Concern:

The AAP has produced two documents to add some clarity and direction toward reducing possible risks:

  1. AAP Policy statement:
    • Describes the chemicals of concern
    • Regulatory framework
    • Recommends practical steps for reducing exposure to these substances
    • Recommendations for policy makers and government
  2. AAP Technical report (from the AAP Council on Environmental Health):
    • More specifics regarding the chemicals of concern

Practical Steps: Reduce Exposure to Chemicals of Concern

Frankly, it is difficult to avoid some of these chemicals completely. Here are known practical steps to reduce exposure (as published in the above AAP Policy Statement):

  1. 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.
  2. Avoid processed meats, especially maternal consumption during pregnancy.
  3. Avoid microwaving food or beverages (including infant formula and pumped human milk) in plastic, if possible.
  4. Avoid placing plastics in the dishwasher.
  5. Use alternatives to plastic, such as glass or stainless steel, when possible.
  6. 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.
  7. Encourage hand-washing before handling foods and/or drinks, and wash all fruits and vegetables that cannot be peeled.