It’s Organic. But What About the Packaging?


It’s not a question of whether packaging components will leach into your food. It’s only a question of how much.


When 28 million boxes of Kellogg’s cereal were recalled last summer, it gave us something new to worry about.
The problem wasn’t with the Froot Loops and Corn Pops (well, no more than the usual problems we have with over-processed, over-sugared breakfast cereals), but with the cereal boxes.

You know the slick, weirdly waxy-feeling liner bag inside of cereal boxes? That’s not wax. It’s plastic that has been impregnated with preservatives derived from oil and coal tar, and they leach into the cereal as it sits on the shelf. The incident highlighted gaps in the FDA’s chemical approval system and its lack of oversight when it comes to the safety of food packaging.

It also expanded our vocabulary when it introduced us to a new threat: endocrine disruptors.
Unlike other, all too familiar contaminants, endocrine disruptors affect our health at even minute levels by mimicking human hormones. We’re talking about immune dysfunction, metabolic disorders that lead to weight gain and diabetes, and infertility.
Most of our food packaging is riddled with toxic compounds. You can avoid the well-known hazards of certain plastics and styrofoam, but these chemicals are still migrating into your food through seemingly benign pizza boxes, milk cartons, yogurt containers, and even the paper, ink, and adhesives of product labels. And no one has to tell you when these substances are present.
The federal Toxic Substances Control Act, which regulates testing and reporting of the additives, doesn’t just keep consumers in the dark. Packaging manufacturers are not even required to disclose the presence of contaminants to the food manufacturers. You read that right. Packaging manufacturers sell their products to food processors–even makers of organic foods–but they are allowed to hold back basic information about the materials including their makeup, possible health risks, quantities, and manner of use in their manufacture.

Packaged Foods to Avoid
Here are some of the worst offenders:

I know they are useful, especially in the off-season, but stay away from canned tomatoes.

The resin linings of cans contain bisphenol-A, what we know as BPA. It’s a synthetic estrogen that has been linked to ailments ranging from reproductive problems to heart disease, diabetes, and obesity. The acidity of tomatoes causes a large amount of BPA to leach out of the lining and into your food—some much that the BPA level from just a few cans’ worth of tomatoes is enough to have a health impact.

...…..Microwave popcorn: you’ve known this all along.

There has always been something more than a little suspect about microwave popcorn. We should have trusted our instincts. Microwave popcorn bags are coated with a class of compounds that is known to cause liver, testicular, and pancreatic cancer in animals. Vaporize them in a microwave oven and the toxins are extra effective at permeating the popcorn.

Not the butter!

It’s the essence of farm-fresh purity containing, by law, just churned cream, with maybe the addition of milk solids, water and salt. That’s why tainted butter is a special affront. Scarily high levels of a highly toxic flame retardant have been recently found in the waxed paper wrapping of butter samples. It’s the first time this class of chemicals— so dangerous in even industrial applications that it’s already banned by EU countries— has been found in food. It’s too soon to tell how widespread the problem might be.

Here’s the worst of the bunch among plastic packaging.
Remember that more toxins will transfer to food when these containers are put through the dishwater, into the freezer, or warmed in the microwave oven.

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