The Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) requires that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency compile and keep a current list of chemical substances manufactured or processed in the U.S. That list1 currently includes about 85,000 chemicals.
Among them are 10,000 chemicals allowed to be added to food and food-contact materials in the U.S., either directly or indirectly, yet few have been properly tested for safety.
An evaluation of nearly 4,000 additives intentionally added to food revealed 80 percent lacked enough information to determine how much could be safely eaten and only 6.7 percent had reproductive toxicology data.2 And that's just food chemicals.
In recent years, researchers and scientists have raised warnings about mounting toxic exposures, leading to efforts to rein in the use of chemicals known to be hazardous to human health. Unfortunately, many companies are still failing in this regard.
Report Card Reveals Most Toxic Retailers
Three years ago, the Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families' Mind the Store campaign started publishing a report card on retailer actions to eliminate toxic chemicals. The third annual report3,4 reveals which retailers have made strides to protect its customers from toxic chemicals in the products they sell, and which ones have not. This year, chain restaurants were also included for the first time.
About half of the 40 companies evaluated have made "slow but meaningful progress at improving the chemical safety of the products, food and packaging they sell," while the other half, including all restaurant chains, have not made any discernible efforts to reduce toxicity. According to the report, published November 14, 2018:5
"Four retailers received the highest grades for their work to protect customers from toxic products and packaging, setting the pace for the industry: Apple (A+), Target (A), Walmart (A-) and IKEA (A-).
In 2018, Walgreens, Rite Aid and Amazon were ranked 'most improved' with all three companies announcing sweeping chemical safety policies over the past two months."
Mike Schade, campaign director for Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families commented on the results:6
"Companies can prevent harm and protect public health by taking commonsense steps to phase out toxic chemicals in everyday products. Retailers have an important role to play — they have both the power and the moral responsibility to eliminate and safely replace toxic chemicals to 'mind the store.' They should stop letting chemical corporations put public health at risk."
Which Retailers Scored Failing Grades in 2018?
In all, 19 of the 40 retailers, grocery and fast food restaurant chains included in the review received an "F" in 2018 for "failing to announce policies or publicly report progress to assess, reduce or eliminate toxic chemicals in the products or packaging they sell." As noted by Tracy Gregoire, project coordinator for Learning Disabilities Association of America's Healthy Children:7
"Learning and developmental disabilities now affect 1 in 6 children. Over a quarter of these disabilities are linked to toxic chemical exposures. Prenatal and early childhood exposure to harmful chemicals in consumer products and food packaging can lead to lifelong impacts and chronic health conditions.
Major retailers have both the opportunity and the responsibility to become industry leaders by keeping toxic chemicals out of products and packaging to protect children's minds and bodies."
While some of the companies that received an "F" would seem like "givens," even companies like Trader Joe's and Publix are on this list.
Companies that received a Failing Grade for 20188
Restaurant Brands International
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Executive director of the Environmental Health Strategy Center, Mike Belliveau, a coauthor of the report, said:9
"The food we buy should nourish us, not expose us to toxic chemicals from packaging and processing. Restaurant chains are serving up a recipe for poor health by failing to slash the use of toxic chemicals in food packaging and other food contact materials.
Toxic industrial chemicals like phthalates and PFAS don't belong in the food we eat. Consumers expect a lot more leadership from food retailers in getting toxic chemicals out of the food supply chain."