A new report published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health suggests chemicals found in the packaging of common foods can affect long-term health.
The research reveals chronic exposure to materials found in the packaging of processed foods can lead to cancer, inflammatory diseases and diabetes.
“Almost everyone is exposed to these chemicals on a daily basis, mostly unknowingly. For around 80 per cent of those chemicals that are intentionally used in manufacturing we lack sufficient safety information,” author of the study Dr. Jane Muncke told Et Cetera.
“BPA-based can coatings and polycarbonate plastic are the most harmful food chemical materials,” said Dr. Muncke.
The Government of Canada’s Chemical Substances website says “Bisphenol A (BPA) is an industrial chemical used in many consumer products.”
Dr. Muncke said cardboard is also concerning because of the print inks used, but clear plastics in direct contact of food is the most risky.
The report said there are more than 4,000 chemical substances used in food packaging.
Processed meat is commonly packaged using plastic.
“Meat is sliced and placed into packages either by hand or by robot and the plastic is bought from a low-cost supplier,” said Troy Downs, Operations Supervisor at Maple Leaf Foods.
“We are surrounded by these chemicals whether we like it or not,” said Downs.
“People should use glass containers instead of plastic and never heat or freeze plastic wrap,” said Abby Langer, a Toronto registered dietician.
BPA is released at a higher rate in the presence of heat and cold, Langer said.
She said some organic brands label products as BPA Free, adding Eden Organic Foods is a company that does not use BPA or Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) in products.
Health Canada’s Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) website says current dietary exposure to BPA through food packaging is not expected to pose health risks to the public and thus has not been banned in the country.
Regulators, manufacturers and the food industry are aware of the chemicals, but the general public tends to buy a food product blindly.”
“Ultimately, we will need to rely on our governments to reduce exposure to these chemicals while making lifestyle changes simultaneously,” she said.