Monday, November 09, 2009

BPA in your canned tomatoes and soup

If you saw my post on Sigg bottles, and are concerned about BPA and other plastic chemical leakage, put canned foods in that category. We only buy tomatoes if they are in glass (the organic "lined" cans weirded me out) especially because they are very acidic, and intuition seems to have proved right. This post on a Consumer Report test via our friends at Treehugger bears a close read (ONE OF EVERY THREE CANS IOF INFANT FORMULA!):

Two new bits of research: A new study by members of the Reproductive Toxicology Branch of the EPA did not find any evidence that Bisphenol A (BPA), was a "gender bender" in female rats. BPA "Does not Alter Sexually Dimorphic Behavior, Puberty, Fertility and Anatomy of Female LE Rats" (Abstract here, via

This is particularly good news in the light of the Consumers Union's recent report that showed leaching of BPA from canned food, as reported in Calorie Lab. The worst product, Progresso Vegetable Soup, had BPA content in the range of 67 to 134 parts per billion. These are levels comparable to those found in the polycarbonate bottles that we have all been dumping like mad.

bpa levels

This shouldn't be news to TreeHugger readers; studies have been finding BPA in cans for years. See:
BPA Danger may be greater from Tin Cans than Water Bottles
Bisphenol A Is In Your Tomato Sauce
Is There Bisphenol A In Your Home Canning?
Bisphenol A Found in Baby Food in Glass Jars

So what should one do? Certainly not jump on the one new study and say that proves that BPA is harmless, as many in the plastics industry are doing; The Environmental Working Group lists over a hundred studies that say otherwise.

There were fairly easy substitutes for polycarbonate bottles, either stainless steel or new BPA free plastics. Replacing it in cans is not so simple. But the EPA is no longer taking its orders from the American Chemistry Council, and according to the Los Angeles Times, a review of existing evidence about BPA's health effects was nearly completed and that [Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Margaret] Hamburg would "make a decision how to proceed" by the end of the month.

Conclusion: There is absolutely nothing new in the Consumers Union report. If you are concerned about BPA, we made five recommendations in an earlier post:

Don't use canned baby formula: All U.S. manufacturers use BPA-based lining on the metal portions of the formula containers. If you must use formula, choose powered or liquid in plastic bottles.

Don't eat canned food if you are pregnant. the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) says "We don't want to tell people not to eat canned beans or tomatoes," said CSPI nutritionist David Schardt. "But at the same time, it makes sense for all parents, and especially pregnant and nursing women, to minimize the exposure of their kids' developing bodies and brains to BPA."

Buy in bottles, not cans. Many products, like tomato sauces, are available in bottles as well as cans. Does that white epoxy on the inside of the metal lid have BPA? Yes, but there is a lot less surface area than the whole inside of a can.

Start cooking instead of just heating
. The fact that 17% of the American diet comes out of cans is just a scandal when we are surrounded by fresh food. Cook it from scratch and avoid the problem altogether.

Demand BPA-free cans. Not every manufacturer uses it; Some brands, like Eden Foods, are BPA free.

But most of all, don't panic, and lets wait to see what the FDA says at the end of the month.


Alison said...

Dear God, I have so many cans in my pantry. Garbanzo beans, whole peeled tomatoes, tuna, wild salmon. I thought this was relatively good for you, mixed with whole grains and fresh veggies. Ugh.

Anthony said...

Actually, Eden does not use BPA-cans for tomatoes, the acidity eats through the non-BPA liners. See the following article:

GreenFertility said...

Thanks--what DO you line them with?