Why is BPA in Canned Foods?
According to the Environmental Working Group, companies began using BPA in metal cans in the 1950s and 1960s. BPA is used in the resin lining of all food and beverage cans, including canned vegetables, soups and sodas. Companies steadily increased their reliance on BPA until it reached an annual U.S. production exceeding one billion pounds around 1990.
Are There Safe Levels of BPA?
According to a government statement in 2008, a large body of available evidence indicates that currently-marketed food contact materials containing BPA are safe, and that exposure to BPA from food contact materials, including exposures for infants and children, are below the levels that may cause health effects.
Many suggest that the government had biased information by relying too much on industry research, as opposed to independent, third party research. A more recent report on BPA by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences can be found here.
However, the Consumer Reports: Concern Over Canned Foods determined that several animal studies show adverse effects, such as abnormal reproductive development, at exposures of 2.4 micrograms of BPA per kilogram of body weight per day. Their food-safety scientists recommend limiting daily exposure to one-thousandth of that level, or 0.0024 micrograms per kilogram of body weight.
How Much BPA is in Canned Foods?
The Consumer Reports study showed that those eating just one serving of the canned vegetable soup we tested would get about double what the FDA now considers typical average dietary daily exposure.
They also found that the average amounts of BPA in tested products varied widely; most items showed levels from trace amounts to about 32 parts per billion. Products in that range included canned corn, chili, tomato sauce, and corned beef.
For example, a 165-pound adult eating one serving of canned green beans from their sample, which averaged 123.5 ppb, could ingest about 0.2 micrograms of BPA per kilogram of body weight per day, about 80 times higher than our experts’ recommended daily upper limit.
More importantly, children eating multiple servings per day of canned foods with BPA levels comparable to the ones we found in some tested products could get a dose of BPA approaching levels that have caused adverse effects in several animal studies.
What Should You Do?
eliminate, their dietary exposure to BPA by taking the following steps
- Choose fresh food whenever possible.
- Consider alternatives to canned food, beverages, juices, and infant formula, like frozen or packaged in glass, cardboard or BPA free plastic.
- Use glass containers when heating food in microwave ovens (see my post on plastics for more on using microwave safe, freezer safe and dishwasher safe containers).
I think the hardest thing for me with this recommendation is canned beans! I’m always telling you to eat more of them, but it’s really not convenient unless it comes from a can. A couple of options that you have for those is to:
- Buy dried beans, soak them or put them in the crockpot all day until they are cooked. You can then freeze some of them for later.
- Buy frozen. I’ve used frozen lima beans and frozen black eyed peas, and they’ve worked out very well.
What is the US Government Doing?
According to their statement,
“we are actively reviewing the data on BPA and will continue to consider the relevance of new data and studies as they appear. FDA’s work in assessing the safety of these products is ever truly final, and if our continuing review of all available data leads us to a determination that the current levels of exposure to BPA are not safe, we will take appropriate action to protect the public health”.
Since the FDA estimates that 17% of the U.S. diet comprises canned food, I hope they take appropriate action soon!