The majority of people do not realize this, but there are actually trace levels of plastics from food packaging that make their way into our food supply on a daily basis. A study published last year in Environmental Health Perspectives put five San Francisco families on a three-day diet on food that hadn't been in contact with plastic. When they compared urine samples before and after the diet, the scientists were stunned to see what a difference several days could make. The participants' levels of BPA which is used to harden polycarbonate plastic, plunged –by two thirds, on average – while those of the phthalate DEHP, which imparts flexibility to plastics, dropped by more than half, according to the Washington Post.
The thought from scientists is that the plastic from food packaging is to blame for the results of this study. This should raise concerns from consumers in terms of what they are putting into their body when eating something that has been in plastic food packaging. Other studies have shown that phthalates also make their way into our food from plastic packaging which is another harmful type of plastic component.
The United States government is well aware of the fact that small amounts of these chemicals are making their way into our food supply on a daily basis. However, relatively few regulations have been put into place when you compare our guidelines to other developed countries, like those in Europe. The Food and Drug administration has decided to regulate these substances as indirect food additives. They have approved more than 3,000 chemicals for being able to come in contact with food which has alarmed many consumer advocacy groups.
The guidelines of the Food and Drug administration evaluated these chemicals based on models that estimate how much of a specific substance might end up on someone's dinner plate after being leaked from some types of packaging. The idea is, that if exposure levels can be kept low then it will not be as big as a problem. They usually do not do further safety testing if the levels are low enough.
However, some scientists are starting to put together data about the ubiquity of chemicals which are located in our food supply and the impact that these chemicals has on our bodies even at small doses. This has led some health advocates worried about what effect it is having on our society.
It is a large issue, according to Janet Nudelman which is a program and policy director at the Breast Cancer Fund, a nonprofit organization which focuses on environmental causes of disease.
One may be wondering exactly how common these chemicals are in our food supply. One chemical that researchers have found in trace amounts is styrene which is potentially a carcinogen. It is found in instant noodles sold in polystyrene cups. They have also found nonylphenol an estrogen-mimicking chemical which is produced by the breakdown of antioxidants used in plastics. They have also found traces of other hormone-disrupting chemicals in food such as fire retardants in butter and Teflon components in microwave popcorn. This is why it is usually a better idea to stick to wholefood whenever possible.
It seems as if these laws will get stricter and stricter as more consumers become aware of the dangerous chemicals that are circulating in their food supply. The data also seems to be piling up on the scientific side of things.