Hidden Toxins You Won’t Find on Nutrition Labels

children's cereal additives

The American Academy of Pediatrics is raising the alarm about toxins in the food we’re serving our kids. And it’s not just about the ingredients in the food – they are equally as concerned about chemicals used in food packaging that you won’t find on the label.

Yup, a mainstream medical organization is talking about toxins and regulations. Not going to lie, I’m thrilled. Because while organizations like EWG have been raising the alarm about food additives for YEARS, sometimes we need to hear it from other sources before we listen.

And this particular issue is so important because children are at a greater risk of long-term health effects from toxins in everyday products than adults. Why? Because:

  • they are exposed to more per body mass than adults;
  • their detoxification and immune systems aren’t fully matured so they aren’t able to get rid of toxins as effectively; and
  • they experience what are known as “critical windows of development” in the early years that are particularly sensitive to certain toxins.

So let’s take a look at what the AAP is concerned about, and – more importantly – what you can do in your own kitchen to help keep your kids healthy.

Regulations Aren’t Strong Enough

The AAP Report says:

“The United States allows the use of more than 10,000 additives to preserve, package, or modify the taste, appearance, texture, or nutrients in foods. Many were grandfathered in for approval during the 1950s, and roughly 1,000 additives are used under a “Generally Recognized as Safe” designation process that doesn’t require U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval.”   

In Canada, the regulatory process is not straight-forward (surprise, surprise), but their website says that “it is the responsibility of the food seller (manufacturer, distributor) to ensure the safety of packaging material and compliance.” Sooo… I’m not holding my breath that our regulations are any better than the US.

What Toxins Should You Watch Out For?

Well, as I mentioned in the intro, many of the ingredients that the AAP is concerned about won’t be found on the nutrition label. Here’s a run-down of the hidden chemicals. In the next section, I’ll let you know what you can do to avoid them.

BPA: It probably isn’t new to you to watch out for plastic #7 for BPA concerns, but it’s also hiding in places you might not expect – like the lining of cans. The problem here is that you can’t just go by a label that says “BPA-free”, because the common replacements (BPS and BPF) show similar hormone-disrupting properties.

Phthalates: Commonly found in soft plastics (#3), they are easily released into food from packaging. Phthalates are linked with a range of health concerns, including asthma, obesity, and reproductive system effects.

PFCs: These are used in fast-food packaging like grease-proof paper, and cardboard food packaging. PFCs have been found to affect fertility and the thyroid, and are contaminants in our soils as well.

Perchlorate: It’s used in food packaging to reduce static. This is also a component of rocket fuel and is present in our food and water as a result. Perchlorate is also linked with thyroid concerns.

But How Much Actually Ends up in the Food?

This is the next logical question. If packaging contains these chemicals, how much really gets into the food and is it a concern?

The fact is the amount that ends up in the food you feed your child is going to be low with any given serving. However, food packaging is not the only source of exposure. As I mentioned in the descriptions above, many of the chemicals are persistent in our food supply chains, so we’re likely exposed to a lot more from our meat than food packaging.

That being said, the cumulative effects of exposure shouldn’t be ignored – especially since several of them are known to affect the same systems (like the thyroid).

This brings us back to the good ol’ precautionary principle. And the good news is, reducing the toxins from food packaging can be fairly simple. Remember, it’s not about eliminating all sources of toxins (that would just be crazy), but rather taking steps to reduce them where possible.

What You Can Do

Here are some simple things you can do to reduce your child’s exposure to the chemicals the AAP is concerned about:

  • Reduce canned goods. Choose brands that don’t use BPA, BPS, or BPF (like Eden Organics).
  • Never heat food in plastic containers, even if they say microwave safe. Avoid putting hot food in plastic, too. Let it cool first.
  • Start switching from plastic to glass, stainless steel, or silicone food containers over time.
  • Reduce meat consumption. This will likely have a greater impact on reducing your PFC and perchlorate intake than avoiding any packaged food (though reducing packaged food is always a good goal).
  • Stop using plastic food wrap and freezer bags. Try a combination of glass containers, Abeego, and Stasher Bags instead.

Looking for more tips to help you create the healthiest home you can for your kids? Sign up below, and I’ll send you my room-by-room checklist to help you reduce hormone-disrupting chemicals that are found to have a profound effect on our health – especially important for children.

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