Pediatricians call for reforms to food regulation
SPOKANE, Wash. — The American Academy of Pediatrics has called for the FDA to better regulate food that contains chemicals which can interfere with children’s growth amid growing evidence.
The U.S. allows the use of over 10,000 additives to modify food or to package and process them. Many chemicals were grandfathered in during the 1950s and about 1,000 additives are used under a designation that doesn’t require FDA approval.
“Bisphenol A and phthalates are known endocrine-disrupting chemicals, and we’ve learned that early life exposures can affect later-life health outcomes,” said Dr. Sheela Sathyanarayana, a University of Washington environmental toxicology student.
The additives of most concern, based on the evidence cited in the report, include:
Bisphenols, such as BPA, used to harden plastic containers and line metal cans, can act like estrogen in the body and potentially change the timing of puberty, decrease fertility, increase body fat, and affect the nervous and immune systems. BPA is now banned in baby bottles and sippy cups.
Phthalates, which makes plastic and vinyl tubes used in industrial food production flexible, may affect male genital development, increase childhood obesity, and contribute to cardiovascular disease. In 2017, the Consumer Product Safety Commission banned the use of some phthalates in child-care products such as teething rings.
Perfluoroalkyl chemicals (PFCs), used in grease-proof paper and cardboard food packaging, may reduce immunity, birth weight, and fertility. Research also shows PFCs may affect the thyroid system, key to metabolism, digestion, muscle control, brain development, and bone strength.
Perchlorate, added to some dry food packaging to control static electricity, is known to disrupt thyroid function, early life brain development and growth.
Artificial food colors, common in children’s food products, may be associated with worsened attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) symptoms. Studies cited in the report found a significant number of children who cut synthetic food colorings from their diets showed decreased ADHD symptoms.
Nitrates / nitrites are used to preserve food and enhance color, especially in cured and processed meats. These chemicals can interfere with thyroid hormone production and the blood’s ability to deliver oxygen in the body. Nitrates and nitrites also have been linked with gastrointestinal and nervous system cancers.
Sathyanarayana is concerned that the FDA doesn’t have authority to collect additional data on chemicals designated as ‘generally recognized as safe.’
The paper was published to urge Congress to empower the FDA to collect more data about these chemicals than is currently possible.
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