EWG Has Released New Report on BPA in Canned Food

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CC BY 2.0. darius norvilas

Find out which brands are the best and worst players in the canned food industry right now.

The Environmental Working Group has just released a new report on BPA in canned food. While many companies have pledged to get rid of the bisphenol A-based epoxy liners that are used to slow or prevent reactions between the food and metal can, a relatively small number of them have actually followed through.

After surveying 252 common American brands of canned products, the EWG has come up with four categories: Best, Better, Uncertain, and Worst Players.

The Best Players, which claim to use exclusively BPA-free cans, include brands such as Amy’s Kitchen, Hain Celestial, Tyson, Annie’s, and Farmer’s Market.

The Worst Players, which use BPA-lined cans for all products, include Nestlé, Ocean Spray, Target, McCormick & Co., and Hormel Food Corporation.

Brands including Campbell’s Soup Co., Wal-Mart’s Great Value, Allen’s, Inc., Trader Joe’s, and Whole Foods are somewhere in between. These either use BPA-free cans for some of their brands and/or products, or do not make it clear whether they use BPA-free liners or not.

Why is BPA so bad?

BPA has been classified as a female reproductive toxin and is known to be particularly hazardous when ingested by pregnant women. According to the report’s section on health hazards:

“Children cannot metabolize and excrete BPA as quickly and efficiently as adults. Detoxified BPA can be reactivated as it passes through the placenta to the fetus.”

BPA mimics thyroid and sex hormones in people and animals, and is associated with altered brain and nervous system development. The FDA stated in 2010 that it had “some concern about the potential effects of BPA on the brain, behavior, and prostate gland in fetuses, infants, and young children.”

The American Chemistry Council and food canning industry, however, are not eager to admit to these findings. When I wrote a post about canned tomatoes just a few weeks ago, I immediately received an email from the Chemistry Council, pointing out that I had failed to include the FDA’s updated opinion on BPA. Apparently the organization has changed its mind since 2010. No longer fearing for the development of the nation’s youth, it now says BPA is safe at the low levels to which consumers are exposed.

The EWG disagrees, however, and encourages consumers to avoid BPA whenever possible. You can do this by sticking with the Best and Better Players lists (available here) while shopping, but be aware that there is no industry-wide regulation or accountability for what it means to be BPA-free. Companies can claim to have BPA-free cans, and yet still have trace amounts in the food.

What should you do?

Here are some practical suggestions provided by the EWG report:

  • Eat fresh, frozen, dried, and home-canned food when possible
  • Choose glass packaging
  • Never heat food in a can
  • Rinse food prior to use, if it comes in a BPA-lined can
  • Avoid canned food if pregnant or a small child
  • Spread the word! Contact companies to ask what’s really in their liners.