Consumer Reports conducted an investigation on nearly 100 foods, in a variety of packaging, and found widespread plastics called “plasticizers.”

According to Consumer Reports, plasticizers are a “chemical used to make plastic more flexible and durable.”

“Today, plasticizers—the most common of which are called phthalates—show up inside almost all of us, right along with other chemicals found in plastic, including bisphenols such as BPA. These have been linked to a long list of health concerns, even at very low levels,” Consumer Reports writes.

In the investigation, phthalates were found in almost every food tested, often at high levels.

Levels did not depend on packaging type and no one particular type of food was more likely than another to have them.

From Consumer Reports:

For example, we found high levels in, among other products, Del Monte sliced peaches, Chicken of the Sea pink salmon, Fairlife Core Power high-protein chocolate milkshakes, Yoplait Original French vanilla low-fat yogurt, and several fast foods, including Wendy’s crispy chicken nuggets, a Chipotle chicken burrito, and a Burger King Whopper with cheese. Organic products were just as problematic: In fact, the highest phthalate levels we found were in a can of Annie’s Organic cheesy ravioli.

Yet some products had much lower levels than others. A serving of Pizza Hut’s Original Cheese Pan Pizza, for example, had half the phthalate levels of a similar pizza from Little Caesars. Levels varied even among products from the same brand: Chef Boyardee Big Bowl Beefaroni pasta in meat sauce had less than half the level of the company’s Beefaroni pasta in tomato and meat sauce.

“That tells us that, as widespread as these chemicals are, there are ways to reduce how much is in our foods,” says James E. Rogers, PhD, who oversees product safety testing at CR. Read more about how CR tested foods for phthalates and bisphenols (PDF).

The trouble is, there are so many ways these chemicals enter our food.

“Consumer Reports found a ‘widespread’ presence of plastics in food despite the health risks. The non-profit group said that 84 out of 85 supermarket foods and fast foods it tested contained phthalates, a chemical used to make plastic more durable,” Reuters writes.

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Cont. from Consumer Reports:

Specifically, we tested 85 foods, analyzing two or three samples of each. We looked for common bisphenols and phthalates, as well as some chemicals that are used to replace them. (Read more about these chemical substitutes.) We included prepared meals, fruits and vegetables, milk and other dairy products, baby food, fast food, meat, and seafood, all packaged in cans, pouches, foil, or other material.

The news on BPA and other bisphenols was somewhat reassuring: While we detected them in 79 percent of the tested samples, levels were notably lower than when we last tested for BPA, in 2009, “suggesting that we are at least moving in the right direction on bisphenols,” says CR’s Rogers.

But there wasn’t any good news on phthalates: We found them in all but one food (Polar raspberry lime seltzer). And the levels were much higher than for bisphenols.

Determining an acceptable level for these chemicals in food is tricky. Regulators in the U.S. and Europe have set thresholds for only bisphenol A (BPA) and a few phthalates, and none of the foods CR tested had amounts exceeding those limits.

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But “many of these thresholds do not reflect the most current scientific knowledge, and may not protect against all the potential health effects,” says Tunde Akinleye, the CR scientist who oversaw CR’s tests. “We don’t feel comfortable saying these levels are okay,” he says. “They’re not.”

The decision to allow these chemicals in food “is not evidence-based,” says Ami Zota, ScD, an associate professor of environmental health sciences at the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health in New York City, who has studied the risks of phthalates.

For example, one of the most well-studied phthalates is called DEHP. Studies have linked it to insulin resistance, high blood pressure, reproductive issues, early menopause, and other concerns at levels well below the limits set by American and European regulators. It was the most common phthalate that we found in our tests, with more than half of the products we tested having levels above what research has linked to health problems.

CBS 8 San Diego reports:

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