Consumer Reports Finds BPA in Common Canned Foods

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In the upcoming December 2009 magazine, Consumer Reports details the testing they have done on dozens of canned food products such as soups, juice, tuna fish and vegetables, for the chemical Bisphenol A, or BPA. The products tested included 19 of the most common brand names such as Campbell’s, Chef Boyardee, Del Monte, Nestle, and Progresso.

BPA is a plastic hardener and a component of epoxy resin. It is used in many products, including plastic bottles and in food can liners. Manufacturers use the chemical for food preservation. It is thought to protect nutrient levels and maintain overall product quality.

Using external laboratories, Consumer Reports found that most of the tested products contained a measurable amount of the chemical, and many contained levels that were above the maximum recommended daily exposure amount. The substance was found in both organic and non-organic foods, and in cans that were marked “BPA-free”.

According to Consumer Reports, the highest levels were found in canned green beans and canned soup. Little or no BPA were found in some juice boxes or in infant formula packaged in paper.

The US Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have stated that low levels of BPA exposure are safe for humans, but the chemical has been restricted for use in Canada and in some US states because of potential health effects, including reproductive abnormalities and a heightened risk of breast and prostate cancers, diabetes, and heart disease.

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The North American Metal Packaging Alliance, Inc. (NAMPA) made a statement regarding the Consumer Reports testing of BPA in canned foods. Dr. John Rost, chairman, said “We are extremely disappointed that Consumer Reports failed to provide its readers with the full story on BPA in canned foods. BPA-epoxy coatings in metal packaging provide real, important, and measurable health benefits by reducing the potential for the serious and often deadly effects from food-borne illnesses.”

Steven Hentges, PhD, of the American Chemistry Council, also issued a statement. “The American Chemistry Council (ACC) members develop, test, and obtain regulatory approval for a variety of food contact products designed to keep food safe and fresh. Epoxy resins made from PBA are approved by the US Food and Drug Administration to line food and beverages cans in order to help prevent corrosion, contamination, and food spoilage, and to provide a shelf life of two years or more.”

Because of the concern and the lack of recent scientific studies, the FDA is further investigating the safe level of exposure to BPA. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) will spend $30 million conducting the study of BPA in plastics, metal can linings, and infant products. The current federal guidelines list the daily upper limit of safe exposure at 50 micrograms per kilogram of body weight. This level is based upon experiments done in the 1980’s.

Several animal studies show adverse effects at exposures of 2.4 micrograms of BPA per kilogram of body weight per day, a dose that could be reached from a person eating just a few servings of canned food as part of their daily diet.

This morning, Urvashi Rangan, director of technical policy at Consumer Reports told Good Morning America “Our studies show that BPA is actually in the food itself. We don’t think that consumer should be continually exposed to levels…that are already causing harm in animals.”

Denise Reynolds, RD LDN

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