08 October 2007

Canned Food and BPA

Many people are aware of the dangers of BPA, and this issue has been explored extensively in the parenting blogosphere regarding baby bottles and sippy cups. But did you know that tin/steel cans used for food and some aluminum beverage cans are lined with an epoxy resin that contains Bisphenol A (BPA)? This lining's purpose is to prevent corrosion and contamination of the food, but what about BPA contamination of the food/beverage?

Should we be worried about BPA leaching into our food? According to bisphenol-a.org, the answer is no, "an average adult consumer would have to ingest more than 230 kilograms (or about 500 pounds) of canned food and beverages every day for an entire lifetime to exceed the safe level of BPA set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency." bisphenol-a.org is an industry group, and somehow, I think their information may not be impartial.

Hmmmm, what about children? The Environmental Working Group tested canned food for BPA contamination. EWG states,

"Canned foods are thought to be the predominate route of BPA exposure...Two of six cans of infant formula tested contained BPA. The exposure that an infant might receive from canned formula, given his or her small size and limited food sources, makes the level of contamination in these cans particularly disturbing...For 1 in 10 cans of all food tested, and 1 in 3 cans of infant formula, a single serving contained enough BPA to expose a woman or infant to BPA levels more than 200 times the government's traditional safe level of exposure for industrial chemicals...we found that significant fractions of women who regularly eat canned food would exceed safe levels of BPA exposures on average throughout pregnancy."

So what's the big deal about BPA? The Green Guide writes,

"Recent research suggests that BPA's effects extend beyond the reproductive system. A growing number of scientists are concluding, from animal tests, that exposure to BPA in the womb raises the risk of certain cancers, hampers fertility and could contribute to childhood behavioral problems such as hyperactivity. A January 2006 Environmental Health Perspectives study on mice indicated that BPA alters the function of mouse pancreatic cells, which produce insulin, suggesting that the chemical may enhance the risk of developing Type II diabetes...panelists from the Center for the Evaluation of Risks to Human Reproduction failed to reach any conclusions about the chemical. But recent tests by the Environmental Working Group found high levels in infant formula and chicken soup"

According to the Food Poisoning Law Blog,

"Scientists have detected BPA in breast milk, serum, saliva, urine, amniotic fluid, and cord blood from at least 2,200 people in Europe, North America, and Asia. Researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently detected BPA in 95% of nearly 400 U.S. adults and children."

I contacted two major manufacturers of organic canned food. One of them responded (anonymous), and the other did not (Eden Foods). One of them claims to have BPA free tin cans (Eden Foods), the other did not (they wish to remain anonymous). According to a marketing employee of the anonymous company,

"I am told by the various can suppliers – shrinking number of can suppliers as with most industries in the US – that all commercially produced cans – repeat – all commercially produced cans – have Bisphenol A in their lining…that this is what they use to keep the to keep the metal of the can from leaching into the food…

So as I said, I have received a few inquiries about this, “out of the blue” in the past few weeks, and one of the consumers that I sent the above information to wrote back to me and said, “Eden Foods says they don’t use Bisphenol A in their cans.”

Now, I have made it a policy over the years not to comment on what other companies say or do, or allegedly say or do…but…

the skeptic in me looks at the above statement and alarm bells go off and I want to say, “yes, THEY don’t use Bisphenol A – the cans come with the lining already in them…”

I have to say that I agree with the skeptic. If you were the only food company to have BPA free cans, wouldn't you plaster this across your label? That being said, I still have switched to only purchasing Eden Foods for the few canned items we buy. I have searched Eden Foods website on numerous occassions looking for this BPA-free claim. The only place I can find it touted is in the right sidebar here. They state,

"Avoiding Chemicals in Plastics & Cans:
• Choose soups, milk and soy milk packaged in cardboard "brick" cartons, by Tetra Pak and SIG Combibloc, which are made of safer layers of polyethylene (#2) and also recyclable.
• Choose canned beans from makers who don't use BPA, such as Eden Foods"

Don't forget about the bottle/sippy cup risk. Stating a study done by Environment California, the Grist reported back in February and March that,

"when run through a simulated dishwasher 50 to 75 times, name-brand baby bottles leach the chemical bisphenol A, or BPA, in levels that have caused reproductive abnormalities in lab animals..."This is one of the highest-volume produced chemicals in the world," says Fredrick vom Saal, a Missouri biology professor and BPA researcher. "It's in everybody's bodies, and it's a very potent sex hormone. It's just nuts that it's being used the way it is."

Z Recommends has issued their own Z Report on BPA in baby bottles, as well as pacifiers.

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