New report shows prevalence of chemical BPA in food cans

Bisphenol A, or BPA, is everywhere, and while there’s an ongoing debate about how much exposure to it is harmful to your body, many people, especially parents, opt for BPA-free products when they have the chance.

BPA is an industrial chemical that’s been used to harden plastics for more than 40 years. It’s found in medical devices, compact discs, water bottles and, surprisingly, food cans. A new report found that two out of three food cans tested have BPA linings.

“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,” said Janet Nudelman, director of Program and Policy for the Breast Cancer Fund. “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.”

What it is

BPA is an endocrine-disrupting chemical that negatively impacts our hormonal systems, according to the Breast Cancer Fund’s report titled Buyer Beware. Evidence suggests it may contribute to a host of harmful health effects including breast and prostate cancer, infertility, type-2 diabetes, obesity, asthma and attention deficit disorder. Other studies have demonstrated the capacity of BPA to migrate into food and then into people, raising concerns about exposures to low but biologically relevant levels of BPA.

The report identified and analyzed the interior linings and lids of canned foods containing vegetables, fruits, soups, broths, gravies, milks and beans. One key finding was that 100 percent of Campbell’s products sampled contained BPA-based epoxy. Campbell’s is transitioning away from BPA with a goal of eliminating it in North American cans by mid-2017.

Seventy-one percent of sampled Del Monte cans tested positive for BPA-based epoxy resins, and 50 percent of sampled General Mills cans (including Progresso) tested positive. Private-label and generic cans also tested positively for BPA.

“This new report should be a wake-up call for grocery and big box retailers across the nation,” said Mike Schade, Mind the Store campaign director with Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families, a national effort to protect families from toxic chemicals. “We found 62 percent of Kroger’s cans in the investigation tested positive for BPA. As the largest grocery chain in the country, Kroger should be leading the way by developing a clear public time frame for phasing out and safely substituting BPA in all of their canned food.”

Making safer choices

Tips for avoiding BPA in cans from the Breast Cancer Fund, one of the sponsors of the report, include choosing fresh or frozen foods, and only purchasing canned food from manufacturers and retailers that fully disclose the identity and safety of their can linings. Look for food packaged in other materials such as glass and Tetra Pak.

”While some families are fortunate to have access and means to purchase fresh produce, many communities across America have no choice but to buy canned food lined with toxic BPA,” said Jose Bravo, coordinator of the Campaign for Healthier Solutions, a push for better-quality food at discount stores that’s part of the organization Environmental Justice for All.

“Some families live in a food desert where fresh food simply isn’t available, or they can only afford the cheap food sold at dollar stores,” Bravo said. “These communities, people of color and low-income families are already exposed to toxic chemicals more frequently and at higher levels than the average American. The use of toxic BPA in canned foods means that families will sit down to a double serving of harmful chemicals.”

Written by Melissa Erickson. Photo by 123RF.

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