6 tips to reduce exposure to food additives: A response to the recent policy statment from the American Academy of Pediatrics

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Recently, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) released a policy statement regarding how food additives can affect the health of a child. The statement focused on various plastic compounds that are used in the food packaging and processing of foods (Bisphenols-BPA, Phthalates, Perflouroalkyl, and perchlorate) as well as food dyes, nitrates, and nitrites.

The statement included recommendations regarding what government agencies need to do to ensure safety and research food additives more thoroughly based on recent research and evidence. Currently, the Food and Drug Administration does not have authority to re-examine the safety of chemicals currently on the market.

Interestingly, the statement pointed out that according to some research there is a disparity among races and economic status as far as exposure to some of these substances. For example, BPA exposure is much greater in the low-income population. BPA has been linked to endocrine disruption, obesogenic activity, and neurodevelopmental disruption, which is interesting as obesity is more prevalent in low-income communities. An additional concern stated by the AAP is the fact that children may be more susceptible to adverse effects from some additives as they may have greater exposure when compared to adults due to their smaller size.

The question that many families may have after the release of this statement is “What do we do now?”

The following are recommendations based on the AAP statement:

1)      Consume more fresh and or frozen fruits and vegetables. Families can purchase produce that is in season to save money. Here is a link to seasonal produce: https://snaped.fns.usda.gov/seasonal-produce-guide

2)      Decrease consumption of processed meats, especially during pregnancy. The following link provides ideas to reduce processed meats: https://blog.cincinnatichildrens.org/healthy-living/how-to-reduce-processed-meat-in-kids-diets/ 

3)      Do not microwave food and beverages in plastic (this includes formula and human milk). Keep small glass bowls at home to heat up left overs in the microwave.

4)      Do not wash plastics in the dishwasher. Per the AAP recommendations it is best to wash plastic the "old fashioned way." This would be a great time to get your kids involved in dish washing.

5)      When storing leftovers or packing lunches decrease the use of plastic and opt for glass or stainless steel. There are many choices for glass storage containers that can be purchased at discount stores.

6)      Pay attention to the recycling codes on plastic containers. Those with a 3 (Phthalates), 6 (styrene), and 7 (bisphenols) are to be avoided unless they are labeled as bio based or glassware, which means it is made from corn and not bisphenols. This number can be found on the bottom of plastic containers.

Overall, I believe it is good the AAP raised concerns about these additives. To be honest, I reviewed this list of recommendations and thought of many ways I can work to reduce my family’s exposure, however, I recognize that I am fortunate enough to have control over what foods my family eats. The AAP made a point of recognizing that low income families may have a hard time implementing these recommendations.

I feel that these recommendations should awaken all of us to become more aware of how our government will address the concerns raised by the AAP. Furthermore, we all need to support and encourage programs that will increase access to fresh foods for low-income individuals through programs such as Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) Supplemental Food program, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP-food stamps), and the school lunch program. More access to fresh foods through these programs could lead to decreased exposure of the additives of concern until further research can be done on their safety. No matter what socioeconomic background we come from, all of us need to advocate for all children to lead healthy lives.

For more information her is a link to the policy statement on food additives from the AAP: http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/early/2018/07/19/peds.2018-1408