Our food system is broken. The consequences of this are significant to human health and the planet. It really is an inconvenient truth that I have learned as a pediatrician, mom and most in depth as a founder of a company in the food space. I have seen a lot of things and have had countless “aha” moments that connect my experience in manufacturing with my experience in doctoring. The two are definitely related. I had no idea prior to starting Ahimsa how related they were.
For example, a generation ago pediatricians did not routinely encounter children with Type 2 Diabetes. In fact, even in my own medical school education we referred to Type 1 as childhood diabetes and type 2 as adulthood diabetes. We did not see morbid obesity in 8 year olds a generation ago. The average age of puberty is getting younger and younger. More children now enter precocious (premature) puberty than the generation before them. Thyroid issues are more common in children than they were before. How do all of these sudden changes in children’s health occur? Well - it’s not genetics alone.
A change in our genetics doesn’t happen that quickly.
Scientists have long known that food and nutrition can influence the reproductive system, including timing of puberty. But over the past few decades, increasing scientific evidence has shown that chemicals in plastics, food and personal care products mimic our body’s natural hormones like estrogen and interrupt our normal chemical pathway to puberty and fertility. Something else is occurring - our environmental influences are clearly playing a role in the background at such a large scalebut so silently that we didn’t know until now.
The American Academy of Pediatrics, The World Health Organization and The Endocrine Society are among the many medical communities that are sounding the alarm. Synthetic (made by humans) endocrine disrupting chemicals are found in everyday products - particularly in our food system. These chemicals look likeour everyday hormones that allow us to grow, develop, reproduce, balance our body’s salt and water level and many more significant functions that keep us healthy. The chemicals in products look like our natural hormones and interrupt these normal signaling pathways. This is particularly important in children as they are still growing and developing rapidly - many organ systems are not even fully developed in that first decade of life.
So then why are more than 10,000 food additives found in our food system? Well - we have become very accustomed to convenience, speed and cost. Let’s face it. I’m a busy mom. We are all just trying to get through our busy days and the convenient, fast and cheap option often wins. It’s helpful to us at that moment. The food industry supports that with products that make life easier.
Today, there are more than 10,000 additives approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to preserve, package, or modify the taste, look, texture, or nutrients in foods. But increasing evidence suggests some chemicals used as food additives should be avoided―especially for children. A recent review of nearly 4,000 food additives showed that 64% of them had had no research showing they were safe for people to eat or drink. I’m serious. Our food system operates in an “innocent until proven guilty” model for chemicals in consumer goods. The European Union food system, by contrast, is much more stringent in its oversight of chemicals and does not follow the same mentality of “it’s not a problem until we find out it’s a problem”.
I’m here to tell you that the system is broken but to empower you to fix it. Not all hope is lost. In fact, when we decrease our exposure to these chemicals, the circulating levels found in our body (by the way - you shouldn’t find these normally in our body remember - they are man made) can decrease in as fast as 3-5 days. That should give everyone reading this a sense of power. You CAN help fix the system and protect your family.
The best part? You can make small simple changes NOW.
- Switch from plastic to glass or stainless steel to serve and store food to minimize bisphenol and phthalate exposures
- Switch from teflon pans to cast iron or stainless steel to cook food to avoid Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) which is a forever chemical - yup, just doesn’t go away.
- Eat organic food to avoid pesticide exposure
- Eat fresh produce instead of canned food as all cans have detectable levels of BPA (bisphenols) and other preservative chemicals
- Incorporate more plant based meals instead of heavily processed meats tha contain a slew of chemicals (plus meat processing has a HUGE carbon footprint)
- Politely say no to printing the paper receipt at the grocery store check out (it’s lined in BPA so you decrease your exposure and you save the landfill from plastic lined paper that can’t be recycled)
The way we feed our families matters. The little things we do every day matter. Ahimsa is not a business to me - it is a solution to the problem with plastic in the children’s feeding space that could actually help children. It’s not just a product to me - it’s a chance to change our thinking and to take simple actionable steps to change our broken system. If I know anything from years of practicing as a Pediatrician - it’s the power of parents. Our love for our children and instinctual drive to keep them safe is undeniable. So, I hope you will join our mission because the small things we dotogether can lead to great BIG things for the future. You matter to us and #ItMatters for our families.
PS - There are legislators fighting for better regulations by the FDA. Recently dangerously high levels of toxic heavy metals were found in nearly every leading baby food on the market. The Baby Food Safety Act was introduced and has support.
Want to act now?
Call Rep.Raja Krishnamoorthi (IL-08) at 202-225-3711. Voice your opinion as a parent on endocrine disrupting chemicals in plastic found in children’s feeding products (bottles, plates, cutlery, bowls, cups). While the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends avoiding plastic to serve and store food - more than 80% of children’s feeding products in the USA are made of plastic. He is an advocate and needs to hear from parents that the way we feed our families matters.