A major pediatricians’ group is urging families to limit the use of plastic food containers, cut down on processed meat during pregnancy and consume more whole fruits and vegetables rather than processed food. Such measures would lower children’s exposures to chemicals in food and food packaging that are tied to health problems such as obesity, the group says.
The American Academy of Pediatrics issued the guidelines in a statement and scientific technical report Monday. The group joins other medical and advocacy groups that have expressed concern about the growing body of scientific evidence indicating that certain chemicals that enter foods may interfere with the body’s natural hormones in ways that may affect long-term growth and development.
The pediatricians’ group, which represents some 67,000 children’s doctors in the country, is also calling for more rigorous testing and regulation of thousands of chemicals used as food additives or indirectly added to foods when they are used in manufacturing or leach from packaging and plastics.
Among the chemicals that raised particular concern are nitrates and nitrites, which are used as preservatives, primarily in meat products; phthalates, which are used to make plastic packaging; and bisphenols, used in the lining of metal cans for canned food products. Also of concern to the pediatricians are perfluoroalkyl chemicals, or PFCs, used in grease-proof paper and packaging, and perchlorates, an anti-static agent used in plastic packaging.
“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,” Trasande said. He also suggested wrapping foods in wax paper in lieu of plastic wrap.