Pediatricians' group says children at risk from untested chemicals in food

Untested chemicals in food may affect kids

The nation's largest pediatricians' society is calling for new efforts to examine the safety of thousands of food additives and food packaging materials. The American Academy of Pediatrics says many of the more than 10,000 FDA-approved chemicals used in food and its packaging have never been thoroughly tested. There are concerns they may affect children's immunity, growth and behavior.

"This is a huge statement by the nation's pediatricians saying, look, our food safety system is failing to protect the health of our children," CBS News medical contributor Dr. Tara Narula said on "CBS This Morning" Monday. "And this comes after two decades of scientific concern that's been raised about additives causing disease and disability."

The products the group calls for examining are wide-ranging.

"We're talking about direct additives which are artificial colorings, flavorings, chemicals," Narula said, "as well as indirect additives. These are substances and the material that come in contact with our food."

Growing children may face a higher risk from these chemicals a few different reasons, she said.

"Children can receive a relatively higher concentration based on the amount they're getting for their body weight," Narula explained. "Number two, their metabolic systems, their detoxification systems, are still developing. And number three, they have key organ systems that are still maturing."

Narula said pediatricians are essentially calling for an overhaul of the food safety system, asking for better oversight and regulation.

"One of the biggest issues is a lot of these additives are getting into the market based on being considered 'generally recognized as safe,'" she said, referring to a rule that allows long-used ingredients to bypass the safety testing required of newer products. "This is the heading they're falling under. This was put out there in the 1950s as a way to get things like oil and vinegar on the market."

To help reduce the possible risks of chemicals leaching out of food packaging, Narula offered a few tips.

"Avoid microwaving food and beverages in plastic containers," she said. "Don't put those plastics in the dishwasher."