Toxins are NOT Part of a Balanced Diet

Apr 4, 2024

By Anna Chico Cornel

MBAHM, BSN, RN, PHN, HNB-BC, Carnitas Coach®

It’s hard to believe that we need legislation to ban known toxic chemicals in our children’s food but that’s where we are in the US.  Without a legislative mandate, food companies, particularly those that produce foods targeted for children, will continue to use ingredients that are known to be harmful to our children.  The ingredients that I’m referring to are food dyes and other non-nutrient additives in processed foods that collectively are associated with developmental delays, and behavioral and learning problems, including ADHD.  As a mom and nurse, I have always been careful regarding the foods my children consume but when they eat in their public school cafeterias, I cannot control the quality of the food.  That’s why I am working with California Nurses for Environmental Health and Justice and with Environmental Working. Group and Consumer Reports in supporting a new bill in California, sponsored by Assemblymember Jesse Gabriel, that will ban several known toxic chemicals in foods that are currently being served in California’s public schools.   

Environmental Working Group reviewed the literature regarding the 6 food dyes and titanium dioxide and summarized the toxicity and the most common products in which they can be found.  This evidence supports the initiative to ban the chemicals from foods served to children in schools.

We know that decades ago the European Union (EU) banned many of the chemicals that we have allowed in our children’s foods in the US.  The EU has also banned many of the known toxic pesticides that we still commonly use in US agriculture and that wind up as residues on our foods.  The EU recognized that by eliminating toxic chemicals, we actually reduce a whole range of health and behavioral risks – their decisions were based on scientific evidence and on the public health principle of disease prevention.  We have it backwards in the US where our policy makers are often influenced by major industries, such as the powerful food and agriculture industries, not by those of us in public health and health care services.  That’s why I am bringing my trusted nurse’s voice to the policy arena.  People are listening because they know I am a nurse rooted in evidence-based care, aiming to improve patient outcomes, while caring for the health of my children and the children in California.

It is essential that the food we serve to all children is healthy and safe from harmful chemicals.  However, it should be noted that 1:5 California families are food insecure and many of the children rely on school lunch programs for their main source of nutrition.  Ensuring access to wholesome and balanced foods free from toxic chemicals is vital for their physical and mental health, academic performance, and overall development.  Their food should be toxic-free from the start and foods should be chosen on the basis of the best nutrition science which tells us that whole foods, fruits, and vegetables are the best choices. 

It’s time that we take our children’s health seriously starting with one of the most important building blocks for their healthy development – their food.