BPA: Another Reason to Avoid Canned Food
Recent news about packaged and processed foods have centered on the avoidance of canned foods due to the high sodium content. A new report entitled “No Silver Lining” by the National Workgroup for Safe Markets reveals another reason to choose fresh or frozen. BPA (bisphenol A) is a routine contaminant in canned foods and is particularly dangerous to pregnant women and small children.
In order to determine the amount of BPA a person is exposed to on a daily basis from canned food, the National Workgroup recruited 20 people from Alaska, California, Connecticut, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Vermont, Washington, Wisconsin, and Ontario Canada to donate cans of food and beverages from their home pantry shelves and local groceries.
A variety of food types were selected, including fruits, vegetables, fish, beans, sodas, and tomato products. In most cases, two cans per location were submitted – one from home and a matching or similar product purchased from chain grocery stores such as Hannaford, Kroger, Safeway, WalMart and Whole Foods. Product manufacturers included Campbell’s, Coca Cola, DelMonte, and store brands from WalMart and Whole Foods.
BPA was detected in 46 of 50, or 92% of the canned food samples. On average, the canned products contained about 77.36 parts per billion (ppb) of BPA. The highest levels were found in DelMonte French Style Green Beans. It contained 1,140 ppb of BPA, the highest level ever detected in the US. The remainder of the top 6, all with BPA above 100 ppb, included Great Value (WalMart store brand) Sweet Peas, Healthy Choice Old Fashioned Chicken Noodle Soup, Healthy Choice Old Fashioned Chicken with Rice Soup, Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom Soup, and Campbell’s Chicken Noodle Soup.
Those with the lowest levels of BPA, below 2 ppb, include three versions of Coca Cola products (Classic, diet, and diet caffeine-free), Star-Kist Tuna, DelMonte Yellow Freestone Peaches in Light Syrup, and Muir Glen Organic Fire Roasted Crushed Tomatoes.
The group found that there was not a correlation between the length of time the foods were stored after purchased, indicating that the BPA contamination occurs as a result of manufacturing or production. The study also found that BPA levels in canned foods cannot be predicted by the price of the product, the quality, relative nutritional value, or where it was purchased.
The Environmental Protection Agency found that the “Lowest Observed Adverse Effect” level of BPA exposure was 50 milligrams per kilogram of body weight (or 50 parts per million per day) based on animal studies. The agency set a “safe dose” recommendation for Americans which is a thousand times lower at 50 micrograms per kilogram of body weight, or 50 parts per billion. A single serving of green beans puts a person over the safe limit for the day.
BPA is particularly concerning for pregnant women, babies and children. Animal research found that human exposure in the womb can lead to serious reproductive tract harm and hormone-sensitive cancers, including breast and prostate cancer, later in life. Other health impacts linked to even low-level exposure of the chemical include low sperm count, miscarriage, placental cell death, infertility, heart disease, diabetes, and changes in brain development.
The National Workgroup for Safe Markets recommends that Americans and Canadians choose fresh foods whenever possible, followed by dried or frozen products over canned goods. For shelf-stable packaged foods, choose glass jars when possible, followed by aseptic (boxed) packaging.