Fresh foods are contaminated by their labels
The researchers analyzed a vast range of packaged fresh foods on sale in Canada.
Fresh foods sold in Canada are contaminated with a chemical present in the packaging labels, shows a study carried out by a Montreal researcher .
Bisphenol S (BPS) is used as a replacement for bisphenol A (BPA), which is restricted in use in Canada as it is associated with prostate cancer and breast cancer. However, BPS is also an endocrine disruptor, that is, a chemical whose effect mimics that of human hormones.
With all the movement that has taken place to get rid of bisphenol A in applications that are close to our food, to find the cousin bisphenol S in such high frequency everywhere, it really surprised us, admitted Professor Stéphane Bayen , from the Department of Food Science and Agrochemistry at McGill University.
Researchers analyzed a wide range of fresh packaged foods for sale in Canada , from meats to baked goods, cheeses and vegetables.
They found relatively high concentrations of BPS in labels and stickers on which barcodes or prices are printed by heat transfer. The amount detected greatly exceeded the limit value authorized by the European Union for substances from packaging that come into contact with foodstuffs.
It is easy to imagine that food has been contaminated by a label affixed directly to it, as in the case of certain fruits and vegetables. That said, even the thin plastic wrap that covers some foods is not enough to prevent the BPS in the label from contaminating the food.
These wraps have been shown to fines do not serve as a barrier at all, Professor Bayen said. What's on the labels will end up in the food.
On the other hand, the team found very little BPS in wraps, absorbent pads and plastic trays, if at all.
A study published in 2020 by American researchers had shown, in experiments on mice, that bisphenol S can cross the placental barrier and potentially interfere with the baby's brain development.
The researchers had notably detected a reduction of nearly 80% in the concentration of serotonin in the placenta and an increase by a factor of three to five in the level of dopamine. Serotonin and dopamine are two neurotransmitters involved in brain development.
Canada does not regulate the use of BPS. However, Bill S-5, which would significantly modernize the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, proposes changes long awaited by various environmental groups. This law dictates how the federal government regulates toxic chemicals and other polluting materials, with the goal of protecting the environment and people from their harmful effects.
The point we really want to push is not to make the same mistake again, Professor Bayen said. We replaced BPA with BPS, and here we have a situation where we will have to find a substitute and we really don't want it to be replaced by something that, in a few years, will be on our radar again.
The only way to protect yourself from BPA or BPS would be to favor other types of materials for food containers, such as glass, which is completely inert, or metal.
In the same vein, when purchasing meat or fish, the consumer would have nothing to lose by providing their own container or wrapper (such as aluminum foil) requesting that the label be affixed to it.
The findings of this study were published by the journal Environmental Science & Technology (in English).