Consumer Reports, a leading non-profit consumer group, has sounded the alarm on the persistent presence of plastics in the food supply, raising serious health concerns. In a new study released on Thursday, the organization revealed that 84 out of 85 tested supermarket foods and fast-food items were tainted with plasticizers known as phthalates, prompting a call for regulators to reevaluate the safety of plastic materials used in food production.
The findings shed light on the widespread use of phthalates, chemicals employed to enhance plastic durability, in a staggering 99% of the tested samples. Furthermore, 79% of the products also contained bisphenol A (BPA) and other bisphenols, though the levels were comparatively lower than a study conducted in 2009. While the identified phthalate levels did not exceed established regulatory limits, Consumer Reports emphasized the lack of a scientifically proven safe threshold, underscoring the potential health risks.
Phthalates and bisphenols are known to interfere with hormone production, with potential repercussions including birth defects, cancer, diabetes, infertility, neurodevelopmental disorders, and obesity. The report serves as a stark reminder of the intricate relationship between the materials used in food packaging and the potential impact on public health.
Specific products with notably high phthalate levels were highlighted in the study, including Annie’s Organic Cheesy Ravioli, Del Monte sliced peaches, and Chicken of the Sea pink salmon. Popular fast-food items such as Cheerios, Gerber baby food, Yoplait yogurt, and offerings from major chains like Wendy’s, Burger King, and McDonald’s were also flagged for elevated phthalate levels.
Consumer Reports emphasized significant variability in phthalate levels even among similar products, urging a more rigorous examination and regulation of the food production process.
James Rogers, overseeing Consumer Reports’ product safety testing, stated, “That tells us that, as widespread as these chemicals are, there are ways to reduce how much is in our foods.”
The report issued an urgent call for an overdue reassessment by regulatory bodies, including the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, regarding the potential risks associated with plasticizers in the food supply chain.
Polar raspberry lime seltzer emerged as the sole product in the study free of phthalates.
Brands implicated in the report, including General Mills (Annie’s, Cheerios, Yoplait), Burger King, Wendy’s, Chicken of the Sea, and Del Monte, are yet to respond to requests for comments. However, Chicken of the Sea and Del Monte stated they do not add phthalates to their food and receive assurances from their suppliers. Gerber and McDonald’s emphasized their adherence to regulatory requirements and rigorous testing for packaging chemicals. The report underscores the pressing need to address the widespread use of plastics in the food industry and its potential ramifications on public health.
Nature has always been my thing since I was a kid. I grew up surrounded by it, and it made me care deeply about keeping it safe. After studying Environmental Science and Journalism, I set out to uncover the big stories about what’s happening to our environment.