Are you inviting plastic chemicals to your
holiday feast? With a few simple changes you can ban several types of endocrine
disrupters from your next celebration. Since exposure to even small amounts of these chemicals can impact your health, it's worth the effort.
Holidays can be very stressful and there’s never enough time. When you chose items to prepare your holiday feast, convenience and great results are often factors. Roasting bags ensure a perfect turkey with less effort and canned foods can’t be beat for convenience. But with these benefits come health risks from exposure to several types of endocrine disrupting chemicals that migrate into food from these items.
Roasting Bags – antimony and phthalates
Canned foods (gravy, cream of mushroom soup and cranberry sauce) – BPA
Plastic beverage bottles – antimony, phthalates
Antimony - possible carcinogen and endocrine disrupter, developmental, cardiovascular, and reproductive toxin.
Phthalates - endocrine disrupter linked to diabetes, infertility, obesity, allergies and asthma, altered toddler behavior.
BPA - endocrine disrupter linked to asthma, breast, liver and prostate cancer, diabetes, heart disease, infertility, and obesity. It is also thought to cause behavioral changes in children. Exposure to BPA can also reprogram an individual's genes and causes disease in future generations.
Roasting bags are made with polyethylene terephthalate (PET), a type of plastic known to leach several types of endocrine disrupters into food and water. A few studies have found that the plastic components that make up PET (like ethylene glycol, a component of anti-freeze) leach from roasting bags into the fatty parts of turkey.
A 2007 study that included PET roasting bags and ready-made products in PET baking dishes found that half of the products prepared at a temperature of 356°F exceeded the specific migration limit for antimony set for food contact material by the European Commission. Breastcancer.org recommends that women don't use roasting/steaming bags because the plastic residues may leach into food when heated in a regular or microwave oven.
Instead of plastic roasting bags try using parchment paper. This is really important if you’re making homemade gravy. The fat drippings would absorb the plastic chemicals easily.
I am a big fan of cooking with unbleached parchment paper. Turns out there’s actually a name for this type of cooking. The French call it "en papillote" the Italians call it "al cartoccio”. I call it quick and easy with less mess to clean up.
Parchment paper can be used for everything from lining baking pans to roasting or steaming meat and veggies in packets. While you can’t make a packet to roast a whole turkey or chicken, you can wet and then butter a large sheet of parchment and cover the fowl for great results.
Beware though, not all parchment paper is non toxic. White parchment (bleached by chlorine) with a non stick coating (could contain heavy metals if quilon is used) can leach dangerous toxins into your food. I use IF YOU CARE Unbleached Parchment Paper because it is coated with silicone not quilon, which some manufacturers use because it’s cheaper.
Is silicone safe as a food contact material?
I think so. I did an extensive search and couldn’t find any research either proving or disproving its safety. What I do know is that it is a chemically inactive rubber-like polymer with thermal stability that is considered low in toxicity for humans.
Also, unlike other plastics made up of 100’s of chemicals that leach easily into food, silicone is made from silicon (a naturally occurring element), together with carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen. If you invest in silicone bakeware just make sure it is 100% silicone to avoid exposure to any additives.
Beverage bottles are also made of PET and numerous studies have documented the leaching of plastic chemicals from PET bottles into water and soda. This leaching increases with temperature and storage time.
You really only have two choices when it comes to reducing your exposure to the endocrine disrupting chemicals that leach from PET water bottles and jugs. Buy bottled water in glass containers, which is very expensive and impossible to find by the gallon. Or invest in a good water filter, filter your water and store it in glass.
Instead of PET plastic beverage bottles at your next holiday feast, try fruit-infused filtered water. I like to pour filtered water into a pretty glass pitcher and add organic lemon slices and strawberries. Do this a day ahead of your feast for the best flavor.
Bisphenol A, or BPA is
used to make epoxy coatings that line most of the 131 billion food and beverage
cans made in the U.S. annually. We now know that BPA leaches out of these
containers, exposing you to this endocrine disrupting chemical.
Instead of canned gravy, cream of mushroom soup and cranberry sauce, try packed in glass jars or waxed cardboard (Tetra-Paks). Pacific has both gravy (needs a bit of tweaking for best flavor), mushroom soup and cranberry sauce in TetraPaks. Dole now offers cranberry sauce in cardboard. Gravy in glass jars is also available.
For more information on BPA in Thanksgiving foods check out the study by Breast Cancer Fund.
When you make your grocery shopping list for holiday gatherings consider swapping out items that are sources of plastic chemicals. They are easy changes you can make to protect your health.
P.S. When I'm invited to a holiday gathering where these guidelines aren't followed I happily eat the turkey, thankful that I didn't have to cook it, but avoid the gravy. I also offer to bring the green bean casserole and cranberry sauce.