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Toxic Chemicals in Food Packaging

Chemicals in Food Children’s diets are an important pathway for exposure to some environmental chemicals and other contaminants. Children may be at a greater risk for exposures to contaminants because they consume more food relative to their body weight than do adults. Additionally, children’s dietary patterns are often less varied than those of adults, suggesting that there are greater opportunities for continuous exposure to a foodborne contaminant than in adults.1 Food contamination can come from multiple sources, including antibiotics and hormones in meat and dairy products, as well as microbial contamination that can lead to illness. An estimated 48 million Americans suffer from foodborne illnesses each year,2 and children under age five have the highest incidence of most of these infections.3 Microbial contamination of food is monitored and regulated by a number of federal agencies, including the Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration.i In addition, a wide variety of chemicals from man-made sources may be found in or on foods, typically at low levels. Chemicals in foods may come from application of pesticides to crops, from transport of industrial chemicals in the environment, or from chemicals used in food packaging products. A number of persistent environmental contaminants tend to accumulate in all types of animals, and are frequently found in meat, poultry, fish, and dairy products. Other chemicals, such as perchlorate and a variety of pesticides, are often found in fruits, vegetables, and other agricultural commodities. Some chemicals in food, such as mercury and perchlorate, have naturally occurring as well as man-made sources. The health risks from chemicals in food are dependent on both the actual level of a chemical in the food as well as the amount of the food consumed by individuals. Following this text, an indicator is presented for organophosphate pesticides in selected foods. Many chemicals of concern in food lack sufficient data to generate reliable, nationally representative indicators, particularly for children. Selected chemicals of concern for children’s health that are frequently found in foods are summarized below. Further details can be found in the Biomonitoring section of this report for several of these chemicals, including methylmercury, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), phthalates, perfluorochemicals (PFCs), and perchlorate. For full report, https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2015-05/documents/environments-contaminants-chemicals-food.pdf

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