Feed the World — with Combinations of Pollutants

by Allen Leigh, contributor

A new report by scientists in the September issue of The FASEB Journal says that our food may not be as safe as we think it is.

“This study adds evidences for rethinking the way of addressing risk assessment especially when considering that the human population is widely exposed to low levels of thousands of chemicals, and that the health impact of realistic mixtures of pollutants will have to be tested as well,” said Brigitte Le Magueresse-Battistoni, a researcher involved in the work from the French National Institute of Health and Medical Research (INSERM). “Indeed, one pollutant could have a different effect when in mixture with other pollutants. Thus, our study may have strong implications in terms of recommendations for food security. Our data also bring new light to the understanding of the impact of environmental food contaminants in the development of metabolic diseases.”

Thousands of chemicals! The October 2013 issue of Discover magazine says that “Some 15 percent of our food comes from abroad, where safety standards can be scant”, and that article gives several examples of food grown in third-world countries that exceed FDA limits. Food grown in the USA is subject to FDA regulation, but this does not necessarily make our food safe, because I’m guessing that the FDA does not specify test limits in the context of combinations of other pollutants. Dr. Gerald Weissmann, Editor-in-Chief of The FASEB Journal, said the following.

“But, what’s equally important, it shows that evaluating food contaminants and pollutants on an individual basis may be too simplistic. We can see that when “safe” levels of contaminants and pollutants act together, they have significant impact on public health.”

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