I’d like to imagine a world where we wouldn’t have to worry about dangerous toxins getting into our food and in our houses. I’d like that world where we can just pick up a can of soup or a bunch of carrots and not worry about what the can was made of or if the carrots had toxic chemicals sprayed on them. Well, as idealistic and crazy as it may sound, we actually do have the power as individuals to decide what food we want to buy. And particularly, what we can do to ensure a healthier lifestyle.
One of the specific dangers in the food we eat is eating food that has been sitting and processed in containers ladened with Bisphenol A (BPA) and Bis(2-Ethylhexyl) Phthalate (DEHP). BPA and DEHP are common chemicals and resins used in food packaging. It is also an inexpensive way of preserving plastics and you can find it used in the U.S. and around the world. The troubling thing is, the FDA, as poweful an organization as they are, have not acted on the proposal to ban BPA in food containers. And especially in food designed for infants and young children – the most vulnerable to such dangerous toxins.
BPA has been shown in scientific studies to heavily disrupt the endocrine system especially in young children as their growing bodies are susceptible to numerous kinds of attacks. BPA greatly affects our health and has potential prolonged health adversity including diseases and disorders of the brain and reproductive, and immune system. Pregnant women and women who wish to become pregnant are also greatly affected as it can linger in the system and passed through the placenta and breastmilk. Here is a link that provides more details on the dangerous side effects to long term exposure to BPA: http://www.consumersunion.org/pub/core_food_safety/016818.html
As a mother of a young child, I’m particularly concerned with the use of BPA in food packaging, but it is nearly impossible to avoid it. And one doesn’t really know if the packaging contains BPA unless it’s labeled as BPA-free. That’s why I advocate fresh food at all times if possible because well, fresh food is fresh and wasn’t sitting in a container for who knows how many months? In a recent study on the adverse effects of BPA and how you can counteract it, here is an article based on the findings: http://ehp03.niehs.nih.gov/article/info:doi/10.1289/ehp.1003170http:/ehponline.org/article/info:doi/10.1289/ehp.1003170http:/ehponline.org/article/info:doi/10.1289/ehp.1003170
And an article on what BPA does and how to best avoid it here: http://www.ewg.org/bisphenol-a-info.
BPA is found mostly in plastics and food lined with BPA materials. It’s supposedly used to preserve the integrity of the plastic for longer storage life, but the longer you use a product with BPA in them, the more exposure you get. And high heat can cause leakage of the BPA material which is commonly used in plastic food containers, baby bottles, and plastic cups. And what’s ironic is that certain European countries and Canada have banned the usage of BPA in products that contain food or may be used to contain food. Why is it that such a great country such as the United States are still so far behind in certain food safety protocols? What does it take for the US to understand the difference between protecting our health and impacting our health? I think our current president and the First Lady are trying to campaign safer and better health initiatives but we as human beings, need to take our own initiative.
According to the Environmental Working Group, you can avoid certain products that contain BPA. BPA isn’t found in all containers holding food and drinks so it’s wise to check anyways. With the public becoming more aware of the dangerous side-effects of BPA, some natural food companies have stopped using BPA-lined cans and moved to a more natural way of canning and storing their food. Here are some highlights on food safety from the EWG:
Safer products and uses: When possible it is best to avoid #7 plastics, especially for children’s food. Plastics with the recycling labels #1, #2 and #4 on the bottom are safer choices and do not contain BPA. Find baby bottles in glass versions, or those made from the safer plastics including polyamine, polypropylene and polyethylene. Soft or cloudy-colored plastic does not contain BPA. Bottles used to pump and store expressed breast milk by the brand Medela are also labeled BPA-free.
Some metal water bottles are lined with a plastic coating that contains BPA. Look for stainless steel bottles that do not have a plastic liner.
We recommend avoiding use of plastic containers to heat food in microwaves. Ceramic, glass, and other microwaveable dishware are good alternatives. Avoid using old and scratched plastic bottles.
Although we don’t need to completely freak out about the food that’s kept in our plastic containers or metal containers, we should be diligent in what we purchase and from whom we purchase. I know that when I learned about BPA-lined cans in my favorite tomato sauce, I stopped using that brand immediately and looked for an alternative – such as a brand that doesn’t use BPA-lined cans or I started learning to can tomatoes myself (wasn’t a very enthusiastic endeavor). Now, I look to make sure that the containers are labeled BPA-free, however, not all companies will do that and those who do are few and far between. But there’s no need to stop eating pasta or stop feeding your babies milk. Just be careful on the amount you eat and buy BPA-free bottles. And my number one advice always – eat as much organic foods as possible so you don’t build up more toxins in your body!