Brominated vegetable oil
This sounds like something you might cook with, but it’s not. Instead, this additive keeps citrus flavorings from separating in sports drinks and sodas. “People who drink extremely large amounts of soda containing brominated vegetable oil have experienced bromine toxicity,” says Lisa Lefferts, MSPH, a senior scientist at the Center for Science in the Public Interest. Some cases found skin, nerve, and memory problems from the substance. “The effects from smaller amounts are unclear, but the fact that BVO leaves residues in body fat and in the fat in brain, liver, and other organs is unsettling,” Lefferts says. Although it’s banned in Japan and Europe, BVO was granted “interim status” by the FDA in the 1970s pending further studies—but those studies were never done. Several years ago, PepsiCo removed it from Gatorade after a high school sophomore started an online petition. “After consumer pressure, PepsiCo and Coca-Cola agreed to remove it from all of their beverages—but it is still found in Mountain Dew and Diet Mountain Dew,” Lefferts says. So before letting your kids drink sodas, sport drinks, or other fruity beverages (which aren’t good for them anyway), check the label.
Toxic chemicals are commonly used to kill pests on many fruits and vegetables young children like to eat. “One of the top issues I’m working on is getting a very toxic pesticide named chlorpyrifos out of the food supply,” says Miriam Rotkin-Ellman, MPH, a senior scientist with the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC). “The testing that’s been done for residue finds it on apples, berries, melon (even on the inside), oranges, bananas—the kinds of fruits that are on the table for children.” The science shows, she says, that the pesticide is toxic to the developing brain of children. “There are a number of studies linking exposure to the pesticide to learning disabilities and increased behavioral problems like attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and other problems, because the developing brain is so sensitive,” Rotkin-Ellman says. Even after washing, the residue remains, so the best option is to buy organic fruits and veggies for your children—as well as yourself if you’re pregnant, since studies also link exposure in the womb to developmental problems later on. “Australian research published in the journal Environmental Research showed that when study participants switched to eating a diet of at least 80 percent organic food for just one week, their urinary analyses revealed a dramatic 89 percent reduction in detectable levels of [certain] pesticides,” say Mira Calton, a certified nutritionist, and Jayson Calton, PhD, authors of Rich Food Poor Food. Here are 50 secrets food manufacturers don’t tell you that could change the way you eat.