Harmful chemicals can enter our food through farming practices, processing, cooking, and storage. It is important to recognize that just because a food product is on the grocery store shelf does not mean that it is good for you or that you should eat it. Many processed foods contain chemical residues and additives such as artificial flavour and colour.
Some common chemicals found in food include:
a heavy metal pollutant, mercury gets into the bodies of fish and other animals. When we eat large predators, we are exposed to the mercury they have consumed through their diet. High levels of mercury can lower IQ, especially in young children.
chemicals sprayed on farms or forestry operations can get on or into food products. Pesticides are designed to be toxic, and have been associated with human health effects including cancer, and negative effects on the reproductive, immune, and nervous systems.
Phthalates and Bisphenols:
chemicals used in plastics can get into your food, especially when hot or oily food is in contact with plastic. Phthalates and bisphenols can disrupt the endocrine system, causing diabetes, obesity, behaviour changes, reproductive difficulties, birth defects, and cancers. Although Bisphenol A has been phased out of many products, they are still often used to line food cans and are on sales receipts. Also, other Bisphenols are being used in their place with similar negative health effects. Even very low exposures to endocrine disrupting chemicals represent a health risk.
chemicals used in non-stick cookware, and in grease/water resistant food packaging such as take-out containers and microwave popcorn bags. These chemicals can disrupt the endocrine system, causing diabetes, obesity, behaviour changes, reproductive difficulties, birth defects, and cancers. Even very low exposures to endocrine disrupting chemicals represent a health risk.
What You Can Do
- Cook at home more often, using whole (non-processed) ingredients
- Read ingredient labels, and avoiding ingredients you can’t pronounce
- Choose low mercury fish (anchovy, capelin, char, hake, herring, Atlantic mackerel, mullet, pollock ( Boston bluefish), salmon, smelt, rainbow trout, lake whitefish, blue crab, shrimp, clams, mussel and oyster, “light” (not “white”) canned tuna.
- Store and heat food in ceramic, glass, or stainless steel. Avoid plastic. “Microwave safe” plastic does not mean that chemicals won’t get into your food, it simply means that the plastic won’t be damaged in the microwave.
- Avoid non-stick coatings on cookware.
We provide science-based information gathered from trustworthy sources. For further reading, you can check out our sources, which include:
- Government of Canada: Chemical Contaminants in Food
- Government of Canada: Mercury in Fish
- Government of Canada: Safe Use of Cookware
- Government of Canada: The Canadian House Dust Study
- Government of Canada: Zero plastic waste: Canada’s actions
- World Health Organization: Pesticide Residues in Food
- Canadian Partnership for Children’s Health and the Environment: Bisphenol A
- Center for Science in the Public Interest: Chemical Cuisine
- Canadian Partnership for Children’s Health and the Environment: Get Drastic with Plastic
- Statistics Canada: Canadian Health Measures Survey