The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) is calling on the government to examine the safety of thousands of additives in our food, as well as its packaging. The nation’s largest pediatric society released a report stating that many of the more than 10,000 FDA-approved chemicals found in our food and its packaging may affect children’s immunity, growth and behavior.

“In a rather scathing policy statement, the AAP says that the FDA really needs to up its game and do a better job at making sure the food that we’re feeding to our families is truly safe,” says Dr. Pilar Bradshaw.

Calling for changes
Many of the chemicals in our food have never been thoroughly tested. According to the AAP, they were grandfathered in for approval during the 1950s, before a law regulating food additives was passed. And others don’t need FDA approval, since they fall under a “generally recognized as safe” designation.

The concern is that children are more sensitive to chemical exposure, because they eat and drink more, relative to body weight, than adults do. The AAP is now calling for new requirements on toxicity testing before chemicals can be used in food, as well as retesting of previously approved chemicals.

Families can take simple steps to limit exposure to the most-concerning chemicals:

  • Avoid microwaving food or beverages, including infant formula and pumped breastmilk, when possible.
  • Do not put plastic containers in the dishwasher.

“Plastic gets so hot during the heat cycle that when they dry, the plastic breaks down and those chemicals leach out, making it more likely to get into your food,” says Dr. Bradshaw.

The AAP also recommends that families also avoid plastics with the following recycling codes all together:

  • 3 – phthalates
  • 6 – styrene
  • 7 – bisphenols

Glass containers or stainless steel packaging is recommended as best. In addition, opt for more fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables and fewer processed meats, especially for pregnant women. And always wash your hands and produce during food preparation.

“You can get yourself completely freaked out about this information,” says Dr. Bradshaw. “Or you can just dig in and say, ‘OK, I’m going to do this and this differently,’ to the extent that you can make small changes. I think that’s a great idea for families.”