Delicious Living Blog

Hidden health threats continue to leach into packaged foods

Plastics may be responsible for obesity, thyroid problems, early puberty and more—and they are ubiquitous in the food chain. Will natural products companies step up to the challenge to provide clean foods in nontoxic packaging?

I’m a label scrutinizer, a skeptic, a compulsive investigator. I buy organic to avoid trace pesticides. I cook in stainless steel pots and store leftovers in glass to avoid chemicals leaching into my foods. Lately I’ve been eyeing the plastic-encased organic cheese I buy with skepticism.

If there’s one thing I believe, it’s this: What I can’t see can hurt me. You might think that I’m a bit extreme. “Lighten up, lady!” you might think as I make my kids wait, hungrily, as I pore over the ingredients on a bag of sprouted-grain bagels.

But I’m concerned about the effects of even small amounts of GMOs, chemical preservatives and other additives, and hormone-disrupting plastics, such as BPA. What are food companies doing to ensure that these chemicals don’t reach our bodies? Very little. In fact, according to this Food and Environmental Reporting Network (FERN) article, “Finding out which chemicals might have seeped into your groceries is nearly impossible, given the limited information collected and disclosed by regulators, the scientific challenges of this research and the secrecy of the food and packaging industries, which view their components as proprietary information.”

There is huge opportunity here for natural products companies to provide clean foods in nontoxic packaging—or at the very least to greatly reduce our exposure to the worst chemicals. It’s possible to create much less toxic packages, say scientists. That some companies are eliminating BPA, for example, is a great start. But it's just a start. Testing for other chemical offenders should be done, too.

FERN reports on Stonyfield Farm’s investigation of packaging materials for their multipack kids’ yogurts. It wasn’t easy, but Stonyfield “was able to figure out all but 3 percent of the ingredients in the new packaging. But when asked to identify that 3 percent, the plastic supplier balked at revealing what it considered a trade secret.

To break the impasse, Stonyfield hired a consultant who put together a list of 2,600 chemicals that the dairy didn’t want in its packaging. The supplier confirmed that none were in the yogurt cups and a third party verified the information.” Kudos to Stonyfield for their due diligence.

Grow your own food: That’s one way to reduce exposure. I don’t know about where you live, but our growing season is pretty short here in Colorado. And wouldn’t you like to trust that some packaged foods are safe to eat?

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