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The pizza box, not just the pizza, is health hazard, FDA says

Health & Fitness

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Bad news for pizza lovers: The Food and Drug Administration says the classic cardboard pizza box is almost as bad for us as the gooey, saturated fats that sit inside it.

The FDA announced this week its intention to ban the use of three chemicals commonly used to make pizza boxes and other food packaging. “There is no longer a reasonable certainty of no harm” from exposure from the chemicals used to keep grease from seeping through pizza boxes, the agency said.

The chemicals, also used to make microwave popcorn bags and pet-food packaging, are diethanolamine salts, pentanoic acid and perfluoroalkyl substituted phosphate ester acids, The Blaze news website reported. A public comment period is required and will run through Feb. 3.

In its filing at the Federal Register, the FDA said the chief danger posed by the chemicals is “biopersistence,” which The Blaze calls “the accumulation of the chemicals the body isn’t able to digest completely.”

The FDA’s action came after years of lobbying by environmental and health advocacy groups that include the Center for Food Safety, the Breast Cancer Fund, the Children’s Environmental Health Network and the Center for Food Safety. They had formally petitioned the FDA to ban the chemicals in October 2014, noting that much of the harmful packaging is manufactured overseas and shipped to the U.S.

This week, however, the groups said the action is too little, too late, and called for the FDA to more aggressively address toxins in additives and packaging.

“This is another egregious example of how, all too often, regulatory actions under the nation's broken chemical laws are too little and too late to protect Americans' health. Congress needs to ensure that chemicals that make their way into food, either as deliberate additives or as contaminants from packaging and other outside sources, are thoroughly investigated,” Environmental Working Group President Ken Cook said in a statement to Bloomberg News.

And Erik Olson, director of the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) health program, told Food Safety News that the FDA's action is "just a first step."

"Now it should act on our petition to ban the seven other chemicals we believe — and government agencies such as the toxicology program at the National Institutes of Health have found — cause cancer,” Olson said.

So far, there's been no response from the nation's leading pizza chains, who are gearing up for the No. 1 pizza delivery day of the year: Feb. 7, Super Bowl Sunday.

EMAIL: jgraham@deseretnews.com

TWITTER: @grahamtoday

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