Parabens In Food? What Next?

paraben_food.jpgMany of us know parabens from their presence on the list of ingredients to avoid in cosmetics. Check out Breast Cancer Action’s paraben-free cosmetic companies list and Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) Skin Deep to learn more. While the FDA’s eight-year old assessment of these known endocrine disruptors concluded “at the present time there is no reason for consumers to be concerned about the use of cosmetics containing parabens,” it does not give a conclusive answer about the safety of parabens in food. EWG is concerned about propyl paraben as a food additive, and has mounted a petition to get these chemicals out of our food supply (which Europe did almost a decade ago!).

Once again, we fiddle in the country while our Rome--our health--may be burning. Propyl paraben falls under the “Generally Recognized as Safe” (GRAS) rule which allows food companies to use additives without getting them tested by the FDA. Lydia Zuraw of Food Safety News reports on the petition and gives a little history of proplyl paraben:

In 1972, FDA’s Select Committee on GRAS Substances stated that there was no information demonstrating that propyl paraben had any short- or long-term toxicological consequences, even in rats consuming amounts ‘greatly exceeding those currently consumed in the normal diet of the U.S.’”

However, Zuraw also points to multiple studies reported by EWG to justify concern. These include a study from Tokyo showing the chemical lowers the sperm count in rats. Multiple studies show parabens altering hormone signaling, and a Harvard study suggests that it may lower fertility. EWG also mentions that some companies are phasing out polyparabens from cosmetics, and some countries are banning the substance from food entirely:

“Citing the study by the researchers in Tokyo, the European Food Safety Authority issued an advisory in 2004 that the presumed safe exposure level for propyl paraben in food was no longer valid because it affected sex hormones and the male reproductive organs in young rats (EFSA 2004). Based on that advice, in 2006, regulators removed propyl paraben from the list of food additives authorized for use in the European Union.”

You may want to read up a little more on poly paraben and sign EWG’s petition. EWG also provides a list of over 50 products they have found to contain polyparabens.


Read all articles by Damon Cory-Watson  


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