The Dangers in Food

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Daniel Longenecker, Staff Writer

The world’s increasing consumption of unhealthy food has fed the flame of a worsening obesity epidemic. It’s a major health threat that has reduced life expectancy around the world. In order to make better choices at the grocery store, shoppers should always take a look at the ingredients list before purchasing a product. 

However, there are some ingredients that present us with unique challenges. As consumers, we will not always be aware of the issues behind the products we choose to put in our carts. In fact, our food might include additives that do not show up on the box at all.

Phthalates, for example, are a group of chemicals widely used to soften plastics that would otherwise crack when placed under stress. They are commonly found in many foods through the usage of certain types of plastic packaging and food handling equipment. However, new evidence has linked some of these chemicals to reproductive and neurodevelopmental harm in humans and animals. According to a recent study conducted at the University of Illinois, prenatal phthalate exposure led to impaired cognitive function in infants. 

Although it is nearly impossible to completely avoid phthalates in this day and age, there are ways to reduce our exposure to these chemicals. By avoiding plastic products known to contain high levels of these chemicals, we can prevent them from having a greater impact on our health. This includes 

In addition to this, naturally occurring heavy metals are elements that can enter our food through industrial, manufacturing, and agricultural processes. The accumulation of these metals in our bodies can lead to a long list of health issues. Lead, for example, can cause impaired brain development in children, cardiovascular disease, and cancer. 

Unfortunately, this is still an issue that the United States struggles with in 2021. According to a congressional investigation released in February, four major baby food manufacturers knowingly sold baby food contaminated with high amounts of toxic heavy metals. Arsenic, Cadmium, Lead, and mercury were found to have existed in levels far exceeding what experts say is safe for infants. 

Palm oil, on the other hand, is an ingredient that can be found in about half of all packaged foods on grocery store shelves. It’s extremely versatile and lasts longer than other vegetable oils on the market. Moreover, consuming it can come with a few health benefits.

However, much of the controversy surrounding palm oil comes from its environmental impact. The growing demand for it around the world has led to deforestation and habitat destruction across equatorial countries. Ultimately, it is an industry that could lead to the extinction of many endangered species.

It’s important for us to take the time to learn about the hidden costs of what we purchase. In the end, these decisions play a factor in the preservation of our health and environment.