A new report shines the light on a dirty little 'secret' of canned goods, which has little to do with the food itself, and everything to do with the coating in the can.
The ability to preserve foods in cans, where they can be safely and affordably stored for long periods, enabled a sea change in food systems; but it turns out that canned food items may come with a major drawback as well, as the linings of those cans may be complicit in exposing us to potentially toxic chemicals. The issue of Bisphenol A, or BPA, in consumer goods isn't new, as we've written about it extensively, but it still remains an issue in our food system, and the alternatives to BPA may be nearly as harmful as the original.
New findings from an analysis by The Ecology Center’s HealthyStuff.org lab suggest that the majority of cans on the shelves on the grocery store contain BPA in the lining, with two out of three of the 192 food cans tested in the study containing linings made with the material. BPA, as an endocrine-disruptor, has been implicated in a variety of illnesses and hormonal dysfunctions, including breast and prostate cancer, type-2 diabetes, asthma, obesity, ADD, and infertility.
"Most people in the United States are exposed to BPA every day, largely from food packaging, despite the negative health impacts. It shouldn't be a buyer beware situation for shoppers every time they set foot in the canned food aisle. Campbell's and other major national brands need to get BPA out of food can linings and fully disclose the identity and safety of any BPA alternatives they're using. Consumers deserve protection from the toxic effects of this hormonally active chemical and the likelihood of exposure to unsafe toxic alternatives." - Janet Nudelman, director of Program and Policy for the Breast Cancer Fund
And not only did most of the cans contain BPA, but the four other major types of can linings found in the Toxic Food Cans study, which include styrene-acrylic resins, oleoresin, polyester resins, and polyvinyl chloride (PVC) copolymers in their formulation, may all have questionable effects on the human body as well.
Here's a quick video overview of the findings of the report from toxicfoodcans.org:
Among the key findings:
- 100% of Campbell's products sampled (15 of 15) contained BPA-based epoxy
- 71% of sample Del Monte cans (10 of 14) tested positive for BPA-based epoxy resins
- 50% of sampled General Mills cans (six of 12, including Progresso) tested positive for BPA
- 62% of private-label, or generic food cans (71 out of 114) from retailers analyzed in the study tested positive for BPA-based epoxy resins, including Albertsons (including Randalls and Safeway), Dollar General, Dollar Tree (including Family Dollar), Gordon Food Service, Kroger, Loblaws, Meijer, Publix, Target, Trader Joe's, and Walmart.
- BPA was found in the majority of private-label canned goods tested at the two biggest dedicated grocery retailers in the United States: Kroger and Albertsons (Safeway).
- BPA was found in private-label cans sold at both Target and Walmart, the largest grocery retailer in the United States. In their private label products, 100 percent of Target cans sampled (five out of five) and 88 percent of Walmart cans sampled (seven out of eight) tested positive for BPA-based epoxy resins.
- 83% of Dollar Tree and Family Dollar private-label cans (five out of six) and 64% of Dollar General private-label cans (nine out of 14) were coated with BPA-based epoxy resins.
- Broth and gravy cans were the most likely (100% of those sampled) to contain BPA in the can linings; corn and peas were the least likely category (41% of those sampled).
On the progressive side of the BPA issue, several companies, including Amy's Kitchen, Annie's Homegrown (now General Mills), Hain Celestial Group, and ConAgra have fully transitioned away from BPA, and are disclosing their alternative linings, and Eden Foods is said to have eliminated the use of BPA linings in 95% of its products, and is looking for alternatives for the remainder.
What can you do to avoid BPA and its potentially harmful alternatives?
Here's what HealthyStuff suggests:
- Use glass, ceramic and stainless steel food storage containers and water bottles. Glass jars are easy to clean and can be reused for serving, drinking, storing, freezing and heating foods.
- Use glass and ceramic in the microwave.
- Avoid canned foods whenever possible (choose fresh and frozen instead).
- Look for soups and sauces in glass or other safe packaging.
- Skip the can and cook your own dry beans: they taste better and cost much less, too!
Get the full scoop on potentially toxic chemicals in canned food items from Toxic Food Cans (PDF), or see the results here. You can also help send a message to Kroger and Campbell's about their use of BPA.