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Peanut Butter, Other Fatty Foods Found To Contain Fire Retardants In Recent Survey

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Nothing says "lunch time" to an American kid quite like a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Slices of deli meat might be a close second. Unbeknownst to most parents who pack school lunch boxes, however, both of these favorites could expose kids to toxic chemicals.

In a new study of popular products purchased from grocery stores in Dallas, Texas, researchers found that nearly half of the sampled peanut butter and cold cuts, as well as turkey, fish, beef and other fatty foods, contained traces of a flame retardant commonly used in the foam insulation of building walls.

"This is not good news. Here's yet another toxic chemical that can be found in many of the foods we buy at our supermarkets," said Dr. Arnold Schecter of the University of Texas School of Public Health and an author of the study published on Thursday. "Food does not need to have flame retardants."

The particular flame retardant Schecter's team investigated, hexabromocyclododecane (HBCD), is just the latest in a string of manmade chemicals that researchers are discovering in popular foods. Previous research has turned up DDT, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), mercury, dioxins and other flame retardants. And this is in addition to the chemicals purposefully added to products during processing, or that leach into food from packaging.

Each of the uncovered chemicals poses health concerns, from diabetes to cancer, and HBCD is no exception. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the flame retardant is "highly toxic" to marine life and may disrupt the proper function of human hormones and reproduction. Most worrisome are the chemical's potentially damaging effects to a young child, even before it's born.  

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