Don't Panic: New Study on Bisphenol A (BPA) in Cans Shows Nothing New

Bisphenol A Is In Your Tomato Sauce

All the blogs and newspapers are in a tizzy about a new study from the The National Work Group for Safe Markets, a coalition of public health and environmental health groups, that shows that BPA is in canned food. Inhabitat says "A disturbing study released this week had some startling results - 46 out of the 50 metal food cans tested contained traces of Bisphenol A (or BPA)." However it is important to point out a few things:
BPA Danger may be greater from Tin Cans than Water Bottles
This isn't news.

Epoxies containing BPA have been lining cans for fifty years. Once studies raised the issue of its properties as an endocrine disruptor, Consumers Reports and the Environmental Working Group in the USA, and Environmental Defence in Canada demonstrated that there was BPA in canned food.

The co-author of the study says in the press release that "We found in our analysis that if someone is eating just one meal with at least one canned food product, their levels of BPA are as much as those that have been shown to cause health effects in laboratory animal studies" without giving any background about the controversy over those studies. And there is serious controversy here; the EPA is spending a lot of money right now to analyze all of the research and come to a conclusion.

There are not a lot of alternatives for can linings.

Replacements exist for polycarbonates made from BPA; most people have moved to stainless steel and Eastman Tritan bottles and most retailers have stopped selling bottles made with BPA. But there are few substitutes for BPA epoxies in cans. Even the The National Workgroup for Safe Markets can only recommend that "Can makers and can lining makers should continue the research that is underway to identify an effective can lining that protects food from microbes and toxic contaminants. We recommend continued aggressive research utilizing green chemistry principles, which guide design of chemical products and processes to reduce or eliminate the use or generation of hazardous substances."

April recently posted 7 Companies You Can Trust to Use BPA-Free Cans, but we don't yet know about the long term effectiveness or safety of these linings.

But we do have choices and alternatives.

1. Why is anyone eating canned food anyways? Cook it fresh.

2. Buy in glass bottles. But even they may have trace amounts of BPA; it's in the metal lids. See Is There Bisphenol A In Your Home Canning? We also posted on how even baby food packed in glass jars can have a bit of it: Bisphenol A Found in Baby Food in Glass Jars

While we are troubled by TetraPaks, they are a better medium for storing acidic foods like tomato sauce than cans.

We also posted these recommendations:

5 Ways to Beat BPA from Canned Food:
Don't use canned baby formula: All U.S. manufacturers use BPA-based lining on the metal portions of the formula containers. If you must use formula, choose powered or liquid in plastic bottles.

Don't eat canned food if you are pregnant. the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) says "We don't want to tell people not to eat canned beans or tomatoes," said CSPI nutritionist David Schardt. "But at the same time, it makes sense for all parents, and especially pregnant and nursing women, to minimize the exposure of their kids' developing bodies and brains to BPA."

Buy in bottles, not cans. Many products, like tomato sauces, are available in bottles as well as cans. Does that white epoxy on the inside of the metal lid have BPA? Probably, but there is a lot less surface area than the whole inside of a can.

Start cooking instead of just heating. The fact that 17% of the American diet comes out of cans is just a scandal when we are surrounded by fresh food. Cook it from scratch and avoid the problem altogether.

Demand BPA-free cans. Not every manufacturer uses it; Some brands, like Eden Foods are BPA free. See a list of common brands and company responses at Organic Grace.

More on Bisphenol A
Is There Bisphenol A In Your Home Canning?
Bisphenol A Is In Your Tomato Sauce
Canada Calls Bisphenol A "Dangerous"
BPA Danger may be greater from Tin Cans than Water Bottles
Drink Soda Pop? You're Drinking Bisphenol A (BPA)
Fast Company on the Real Story Behind Bisphenol A

Tags: Chemicals | Food Safety

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