Is There Bisphenol a in Your Home Canning?

Jam being canned at home in jars.

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The white stuff on that lid contains the endocrine disruptor Bisphenol A

We recently reported that the endocrine disruptor Bisphenol A (BPA) was found in organic baby food packed in glass jars, apparently from the lining of the metal lid. (see Bisphenol A Found in Baby Food in Glass Jars)

I wondered: could all of our delicious home-made preserves be contaminated too? The inside of the lids have a white finish; could this be made with bisphenol A? It turns out that it is.

Standard Canning Lids Contain Bisphenol A.

A hand placing a lid while canning cucumbers.

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The website for the company that owns Bernardin, our supplier of jars and lids, says the following, (emphasis mine):

Jarden Home Brands manufacturer of home canning lids: Ball, Kerr, Golden Harvest, and Bernardin brands follow the same rigorous FDA standards used by the commercial food packaging industry. Like the majority of commercial food packagers using glass jars with metal closures and metal sanitary cans, the coating on our home canning lids is designed to protect the metal from reacting with the food it contains. A small amount of Bisphenol A is present in the coating. The FDA does not limit Bisphenol A in commercially packaged foods, and is aligned with the international scientific community's position that a small amount of Bisphenol A in contact with "canned foods" is not a health concern for the general public.

The FDA's Position on Bisphenol A is under fire.

Hands putting lids on canning jars in a kitchen.

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Of course, we at TreeHugger have been going on about the FDA and its purposeful avoidance of dealing with BPA, in posts like FDA Re BPA: " La La La La I Can't Hear You" and FDA Says BPA Is Safe For Babies. The FDA has been criticized for their position by many reputable organizations and scientists as well.

"The FDA's assessment relies on just two studies which were funded by the American Chemistry Council (ACC). This ignores dozens of other studies done by independent scientists which have found evidence of health consequences," says Dr. Sarah Janssen, a physician and scientist with the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).

"There is clear, credible evidence in the growing number of scientific studies that link bisphenol A to the very health effects we see on the rise today," according to Christopher Gavigan, executive director of Healthy Child, Healthy World.

So Jarden's reliance on FDA standards doesn't give one a lot of comfort.

So what does that mean for us, and all of our canning?

A woman using a doily to twist a lid on a jar.

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1. Baby food comes in small jars, that probably get turned on their side and upside down during shipping. Baby food jars will have a higher ratio of surface area of lid to volume of jar, so the concentration of Bisphenol A would be higher than in our 250 and 500 millilitre jars.

2. There is usually a bit of "head space" between the contents and the lid. There is likely not that much contact between the food and the lid itself; in our house, the jars are always vertical.

I am concluding that it is likely that our home preserving is not contaminated. I hope. But if you buy home-canned goods from others, much will probably depend on how it was shipped and stored, whether the food was in contact with the lid and for how long, and perhaps what the food is; acidic foods like tomatoes and pickles are more likely to pick it up.

What about Baby Food?

Baby sucking on a canned jar.

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The Canadian baby food study found Bisphenol A in small amounts, between 1 and 7.2 parts per billion. But hormones like estrogen are found to have effects at levels of parts per trillion. And since experts believe that kids are more acutely affected by endocrine disruptors than adults, this should be of concern to any parent who feed their kid canned or jarred foods--even if you make your own baby food.

Pediatrician Dr. Herbert Needlemansays "We are conducting a vast toxicological experiment in which our children and our children's children are the experimental subjects." Endocrine disruptors like Bisphenol A are being blamed for genital deformities, low sperm count, sperm abnormalities and testicular cancer. Baby food is the last place that you want to find Bisphenol A.

It's time for the Jarden Company to get rid of the Bisphenol A and to revise their weasely words -- hiding behind the FDA standards won't work any more. As for my family, we're looking at all-glass Weck canning products to get rid of the Bisphenol A completely. After all, if you go to all the trouble to can your own food to avoid harmful ingredients, why should you have to worry about BPA at all?