What's that you're eating? Most of our food comes wrapped in something or other over the course of its lifespan. Researchers are now questioning just how safe that packing is.
According to a new study published in the journal Food Additives And Contaminants, at least 175 chemicals with hazardous properties are legally allowed in food packaging in the U.S. and the EU.
The researchers fingered BPA, phthlates, parabens and styrene as some of the chemicals of concern.
Speaking of styrene, just last week the U.S. National Research Council announced it was standing firm on listing styrene (found in foam-style and rigid polystyrene cups, lids, containers, etc) as "reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen."
The committee behind the report concluded there's more than "sufficient" evidence that styrene causes cancer in animals, and "limited but credible" evidence that it triggers cancer in humans.
Styrene has been found to leach from food containers, particularly into hot foods and beverages. I know when I had my body tested for chemicals in 2012, I'd ordered a bowl of hot and sour soup in styrofoam the night before I peed on a stick. Lo and behold, I tested positive for styrene.
Industry has been insisting that styrene is perfectly safe, devoting websites to arguing that synthetic styrene leached from coffee cups is safer than the styrene naturally present in cinnamon or coffee beans. Indeed, Health Canada and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration agree with industry that polystyrene food packaging is perfectly safe for consumer use.
But while many of the chemicals of concern in food containers are restricted in toys and electronics, the authors of the Journal Of Food Additives And Contaminants study say they're largely under-regulated when it comes to food.
Says the study's author from the Food Packaging Forum, "From a consumer perspective, it is certainly unexpected and undesirable to find [chemicals of concern] being intentionally used in [food packaging]."