New research from the American non-profit organization Consumer Reports finds that plastics have a "widespread" presence in food. The group called on the United States government to examine the safety of food that comes into contact with plastics during production.
In a report released Thursday, Consumer Reports said that 84 out of 85 food products it recently tested contained "plasticizers" called phthalates. Phthalates are chemicals used to make plastic last longer.
The tested food came from supermarkets and restaurants.
The researchers also said 79 percent of the foods examined contained bisphenol A (BPA), another chemical found in plastic, and other bisphenols. But levels were lower than in tests done in 2009.
Consumer Reports said all the phthalate levels were within limits set by U.S. and European regulators. However, this does not mean the chemicals are safe to eat. Deciding acceptable levels for such chemicals in food is tricky. Officials in the U.S. and Europe have set limits for only bisphenol A (BPA) and a few phthalates. All the foods tested remained within the limits, the experts said.
However, does that mean it is safe to eat? The researchers say no.
Tunde Akinleye was the lead scientist in the food testing. He says many of the limits on the chemicals are not in line with the most current scientific knowledge, he reported.
“We don’t feel comfortable saying these levels are okay," Akinleye said.
Phthalates and bisphenols can interfere with the body’s production and release of estrogen and other hormones. That can lead to increased risk of birth defects, cancer, diabetes, reproductive problems, developmental disorders, and other health conditions.
Among the tested supermarket foods, Annie's Organic Cheesy Ravioli contained the most phthalates. Del Monte peaches and Chicken of the Sea pink salmon also were high in phthalates.
Increased phthalate levels were also found in products including Cheerios, Gerber baby food and Yoplait yogurt. And the researchers found increased levels in hamburger, chicken and potatoes from fast food restaurants Wendy's, Burger King, and McDonald's.
Consumer Reports also found some wide differences in levels among similar products. For example, some chicken from McDonald’s contained four times more phthalates than a similar chicken product from Wendy’s.
"That tells us that, as widespread as these chemicals are, there are ways to reduce how much is in our foods," said James Rogers. He supervises Consumer Reports' product safety testing.
Polar raspberry lime seltzer was the only tested product containing no phthalates.
General Mills produces brands including Annie's, Cheerios and Yoplait. The company did not immediately answer requests for comment. Burger King and Wendy's also did not immediately answer such requests.
Chicken of the Sea and Del Monte said they do not add phthalates to their food, and that their suppliers guarantee the same.
Del Monte added that phthalates are "widespread in the environment."
Gerber and McDonald's said they follow government rules connected to their products and require testing for food packaging as well.
I’m Ashley Thompson.
Dan Novak adapted this story for VOA Learning English based on reporting by Reuters.
Words in This Story
supermarket — n. a store where customers can buy a variety of foods and usually household items
comfortable — adj. not causing any physically unpleasant feelings
defect — n. a problem or fault that makes someone or something not perfect