food packaging toxic chemicals

Scientists are warning consumers about a range of toxic chemicals that may be leaching into their diet (and bodies) via food packaging. Although the individual amounts are small, and the risk posed by some of the substances is up for debate, researchers say a lifetime of consumption leads to “chronic” exposure, which can put us at risk for life-threatening disease.

It’s no secret that our food system has become a little weird over the past century. What used to be a diet of mostly fresh vegetables, fruit, meat and dairy has been supplanted by drinks and ready meals which are packed and microwaved in plastics. There’s more money to be made in food that has a shelf life of months (or even years), so in addition to chemical preservatives, manufacturers dress it up in food packaging that’s full of even more dangerous toxins. Eaten over many years, these enriched, pasteurized, nutritionally-hollow ingredients are likely to have a negative impact on your health. According to recent research, the ingredients aren’t the only thing that make processed foods dangerous, however.

In their study, researchers from the U.S., Switzerland and Spain looked at food contact materials, or FCMs, such as wrappers, cans and bottles. They found low levels of formaldehyde, a known carcinogen, in plastic bottles. Other chemicals known to disrupt hormone production were also found in FCMs, including bisphenol A, tributyltin, triclosan, and phthalates. In total, say the researchers, the number of known chemical substances used intentionally in FCMs exceeds 4,000.

“Whereas the science for some of these substances is being debated, consumers remain exposed to these chemicals daily, mostly unknowingly,” researchers told Express.

“Some sort of population-based assessment and biomonitoring are urgently needed to tease out any potential links between food contact chemicals and chronic conditions like cancer, obesity, diabetes, neurological and inflammatory disorders, particularly given the known role of environmental pollutants,” they argue.

Others try to down play the risk posed by food packaging. They say the amount of potential exposure is too small to be a real health threat. This seems incredibly and willfully shortsighted. If you’re accidentally exposed to a tiny bit of arsenic (also a known carcinogen) you’re not likely to see any serious side effects. But a little bit of arsenic consumed every day will build up in the body over time, creating potential for disease and even death. Why would we expect anything different from the toxic chemicals in food packaging? More importantly, why take the chance?

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