The AAP is especially targeting chemicals that might cause endocrine system disruption in early life, a time when it said developmental programming of organ systems “is susceptible to permanent and lifelong disruption.”
The group’s policy statement noted that many of the more than 10,000 chemicals now found in food and containers were grandfathered into use before the 1958 Food Additives Amendment to the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act — and that nearly 1,000 got through the GRAS process without FDA approval.
While many CPG companies have been phasing out the use of artificial food additives such as colors and flavorings, as well as preservatives and artificial sweeteners, some undoubtedly rely on GRAS-designated ingredients for specific functions. Finding alternatives could be a difficult and costly process, but it might be better in the long run if consumers have greater confidence in a product or packaging because it now has ingredients sourced from nature rather than from a lab.
For the average food or beverage maker that still has progress to make in phasing out chemical additives, it may be better to start now rather than have to play catch-up later when it may cost even more to, for example, adopt a natural color or switch to packaging without BPA (bisphenol A).
Reformulating from artificial to natural colors isn’t cheap or easy, but consumers are often willing to pay more for products that contain them. A 2014 study by Nielsen also revealed that more than 60% of U.S. consumers cited a lack of artificial colors and flavors as an important factor when making food purchases at the store.
This transition comes with downsides, however. It can be tough to match the artificially sourced color to a natural one, and consumers may not like the natural color if they’re used to artificial ones. That happened last year to General Mills when it switched Trix cereal over to naturally sourced colors — consumers said they missed the brighter artificial ones and found the new ones depressing. The company ended up bringing back the previous formulation and making both versions.
Besides its policy recommendations to the FDA, the AAP made a series of suggestions to pediatricians, Food Navigator reported. These include encouraging patients to eat fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables whenever possible; avoid processed meats, particularly during pregnancy; wash both hands and produce before consuming it; and steer clear of products packaged with recycling codes 3, 6 and 7 because they indicate the presence of, respectively, phthalates, styrene and bisphenols — unless they carry the label “biobased” or “greenware.”
To appeal to health-conscious parents, food and beverage manufacturers could potentially use these suggestions in their product marketing. It’s important, though, for brands to avoid making unsubstantiated claims. If a company falsely suggested that its product was recommended by pediatricians, this could incite unwanted attention from the FDA and erode consumer loyalty.