Friday, June 8, 2012

Food Facts Friday: It's all in the packaging!

People are like food. Really, they are - and not in that "you are what you eat" sort of way. I mean, some come in beautiful packaging, but once you get passed the "packaging", there is just a bunch of crap, kinda like ....
140Kcals, 70Kcals from fat,
7grams of fat per serving,
Partially hydrogenated soybean & Cottonseed oil 
And then others may not be packaged so great, but they're great on the inside. Like my favorite mangoes when they're ripe ...
Ataulfo Mango, 100Kcal, 0 gfat,
3g fiber, 75% of Vitamin C and 25% of Vitamin A of RDA
And then, there are others - you want to like them - both the packaging and the inside - but you're just not sure.
What the heck? 
How can water be bad for you?

In September 2008, The National Institute of Environmental Sciences (NIEHS) and the National Toxicological Program (NTP) reported that BPA (Bisphenol A) needed to be studied further because it could be potentially toxic, especially to infants and children.
Wait. Who are our test subjects
when we use words like "potential"?
BPA, or Bisphenol A, is an organic compound, soluble in organic solvents, poorly soluble in water (notice I didn't write insoluble in water). BPA has been used, since the 1960's, to make hard, clear plastics, called polycarbonates. It's also used in the resin to line most food and beverage cans & to coat cash register receipts.

The scary factor regarding BPA is based on a study that found it to be a hormone-disrupting chemical. In fact, BPA can mimic the female hormone, estrogen, and at very low doses, can also mutate cell division during development (hence the potential dangers to infants and children).
I like that word, "FOUND".
It should have come to no one's surprise that BPA mimics estrogen - that's how it was discovered. Scientists created BPA 70years ago to mimic estrogen for use in pregnancy drugs.

Some studies have even linked BPA to infertility, behavioral problems in children, irregular heart rhythms, breast & prostate cancers, obesity, diabetes and even Alzheimer's disease.

So, why isn't it declared toxic and banned by the US Food & Drug Association, or by the European Food Safety Agency (EFSA), as it was in 2010 by Canada? At least the EU banned it in baby bottles.
Another reason breast is best!
Well, the FDA scientists have "determined that exposure to BPA through foods is much less than previously believed and that trace amounts of the chemical that enter the body, whether child or adult, are rapidly metabolized and eliminated." Basically, the FDA states that they have found "no convincing evidence" to support that BPA is a hazard to people.

The Natural Resources Defense Council does NOT agree with the FDA and is currently suing the FDA for their refusal to ban BPA. They have also conducted a huge grassroots effort to get parent & cancer groups and natural food-ists to put pressure on the food industry to make them stop using BPA to package our food & water. These grassroots efforts are working 'cause this past March, the Campbell Soup Company announced that it is banning BPA in all its cans!

By the end of the year, 
the FDA is expected to make a decision to ban or not to ban BPA.
C'mon FDA, at least require labeling!
There really are no current BPA labeling requirements, but for now, here are some things you can do to protect yourself from BPA exposures:
  • Avoid canned foods. Unless the cans are specifically labeled 'BPA-free'. You're better off looking for fresh or frozen foods.
  • Be container savvy. Buy food and drinks in glass or aseptic cartons/boxes. Don't heat plastic in the microwave or the dishwasher. Better yet, drink filtered tap water and if you must transport it, buy a re-usable steel bottle.
  • Say "no" to trivial receipts. BPA can be absorbed through your skin from receipts coated with BPA.
  • Replace plastic shower curtains with natural, mildew-resistant cotton or hemp.
If all of this is too much, it really doesn't get any more plastic

Even some of the BPA-Free formulas are questionable and there's no way of telling if a far worse chemical is being used to produce that BPA-Free plastic jug, sports bottle, baby bottle or sippy cup. 

I really do not care if BPA is banned or not, but it would be nice to know what I am buying. If there's a potential hazard or toxin, I would like to know. You know - a little help to see if all the pretty packaging on the outside, matches what's on the inside.

Until labeling laws become more strict and protect the consumer, as opposed to the manufacturer, learn your plastics:
Pretty Safe = #2, 4 & 5. Not So Safe = #1, 3, 6 & 7.
  • Plastics marked (usu. on the bottom) with the #2, 4 & 5 are high grade plastics and resistant to leaching BPA, if they contain any BPA at all. #2 plastics are used for milk jugs, yogurt tubs and shampoo bottles. Plastics marked #4 are used for trash can liners, food storage containers and plastic wraps. #5 plastics are used for bottle caps, drinking straws and some baby bottles.
  • Plastics marked #1 & 3 will contain BPA. Plastics marked #1 are found in things like soda bottles and peanut butter jars - they are specifically made for single use & should not be re-used. Plastics marked #3 plastics are generally used for baby-bottles and cooking oil. Both #1 & 3 plastics have another chemicals that can leach out, but I'll save that for another post.
  • Plastics marked #6 contain styrene, a carcinogen, usually found in hot/cold cups - especially styrofoam cups - egg containers and some disposable plates. 
  • On the bottom of the list, we have those marked #7, which are made from a BPA monomer. Runners should pay attention to plastics marked #7 because they're often used for re-usable water bottles. Unfortunately, #7 plastics are also used for baby bottles, clear plastic sippy-cups, plastic cutlery and re-usable 5gallon water jugs.
Above all, if your food or drink smells or tastes like plastic, throw it out!

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