Photo courtesy Eden Organic.
BPA-Free Cans Are Rare, But They're Out ThereHere's a startling, almost amazing fact. Eden Organic has been canning beans since 1999 in BPA (bisphenol-A) free cans. For a decade. Concerns about BPA keep mounting -- in January the FDA reversed its 2008 stance to say it was "concerned" about BPA and recommended limited exposure. So why don't all food manufacturers follow Eden's lead? It's a persistance problem, says Eden's Sue Becker. And, of course, a money issue: BPA-free cans are available, but they cost approximately 2.2 cents more (or 14%) than cans with standard BPA epoxy liners. More recently, at least six other foods have been switched to BPA-free cans. Read on to find out which ones.
1. Eden Makes A Hill of Beans BPA-Free Cans
Bisphenol-A has been used in plastics for more than 50 years, though it has been known since the 1930s that this endocrine disruptor might have negative health effects. Still, even a decade ago most consumers were completely unaware what the compound was or that it is in so much of our plastic products, from baby bottles to steel cans' epoxy linings. Eden Organics switched to BPA free liners in April 1999 -- all of its bean and grain combos and chilis are also in cans with BPA free liners. However, the company is only now putting a "BPA Free Lining" sticker on the specially-produced cans it orders from Ball Corp. "Most people wouldn't have known what it meant before now," said Eden spokesperson Sue Becker. Due to their acidic nature, Eden's tomatoes (and all of the industry's tomato products) are still in cans with BPA liners. To be BPA-free, you'd have to switch to jarred tomato products.
Photo courtesy Vital Choice.
2. Vital Choice Made the Choice and Pays the PriceApart from Eden, Native Forest, and Trader Joe's, all of the other food manufacturers that have made the transition to BPA-free can liners are premium "sustainable" seafood producers. One reason for that is that canned premium seafood is a priced a bit higher than the average can of corn, so that the price premium of 2.2 cents more for BPA free cans doesn't make or break the sale. Vital Choice cans MSC-certified salmon as well as albacore tuna, sardines and mackerel with BPA free liners. While Randy Hartnell of Vital Choice says eliminating the BPA is the right thing to do, and worth it, the costs of the switch can add up. Consumers Union last year tested Vital Choice's *tuna and found trace amounts of BPA, which lead the company to further testing to determine the source - the can lids were suspected - and then attempt to eliminate it. Eventually Vital Choice found Texax company Certi-Chem, to test for all "endocrine disruptor and estrogenic activtity" not just BPA. A round of testing costs approximately $2,000, Hartnell says. "That's a lot of cans of tuna." Vital Choice products are not currently labeled BPA free.
Photo courtesy Wild Planet.
3,4, and 5. Oregon's Choice, Wild Planet, Eco FishOregon's Choice canned last season's catch of lightly salted MSC certified Albacore (6 oz.) in BPA free cans, and the company says it will over the course of the next two years move all of its canned fish to BPA free. That will be a little more challenging with the company's crab and shrimp, which has lemon juice added to retain fresh color in the seafood but disintegrates the non-BPA can liners more quickly. Still, the company is confident that though the can industry was slow to innovate around BPA-free, there will be solutions in the pipeline soon even for more acidic foods. No BPA free labels here either.
Tiny Eco Fish was an early innovator in sustainable seafood, and may be known better to consumers for its salmon burgers, fish sticks, or Celebrity Chef sustainable seafood entrees. But Eco Fish also has canned albacore tuna packaged in a BPA free can, and the company is planning to make the switch for its canned salmon once it finds a suitable can source. Not labeled.
Wild Planet has implemented BPA free packaging for both its 5 oz. skipjack tuna and its 5 oz. Albacore tuna products. The company said it does not pass on the extra "pennies per can" that BPA packaging costs to its consumers. Wild Planet also chooses smaller fish in order to make its "Low in Mercury" claim. In addition, the fish is packed without water or oil, so no need to drain. The company does not label BPA-free.
At Trader Joe's, corn, beans, seafood, chicken, and poultry are housed in BPA-free cans. Chili, soups, etc. are not. Photo courtesy Joe+Jeanette Archie @ flickr.
6. Trader Joe's Tells Little, Does MoreIt is sometimes hard to know whether to be infuriated or pleased with the Trader Joe's approach to food retailing. Stories abound about some of TJ's practices -- clear information at the company's web site does not. But a call to TJ's customer relations reveals that canned corn, canned beans, canned fish, canned poultry, and canned beef at Trader Joe's are all packaged in BPA-free cans. However, any other products that contain corn or beans or fish, etc. and other items -- for example in soups or chilis -- are not in BPA free cans, the company said. There's no labeling here, either.
Photo credit Edward & Sons.
7. Native Forest and Native Factor.Edward & Sons has at least a dozen different products in BPA free cans -- apart from Eden one of the largest selections out there, and with a good variety of exotic, something organic, sometimes sustainably produced fruits and vegetables, as well as the only canned coconut milk that uses a BPA free can. While there's no labeling on these BPA free foodstuffs, and very little information on the web site. the company has confirmed that 14 products have been in BPA free cans since last summer -- as long as you purchase Native Forest or Native Factor brands the canned goods are BPA-free.
Though this is a scanty list considering the number of canned goods in the average grocery store, the list will be growing over the next year or so, according to this site. That's good news for the consumer, who has waited much too long for manufacturers to follow Eden's lead.
CORRECTION: A previous version of this story linked to the incorrect article on Consumer's Choice. Thanks to Randy Hartnell at Vital Choice for sending us the correct link.