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Sarah Janssen’s Blog

How much BPA is in your food? More than was previously thought...

Sarah Janssen

Posted May 18, 2010 in Health and the Environment

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Green beans, peas, soup, even food labeled "healthy" or "organic" are all some of the canned foods found to be contaminated with bisphenol A (BPA) in a report released today by the National Workgroup for Safe Markets, a coalition of U.S. public health and environmental health groups.

A FDA-certified lab tested 50 cans of food for the group. Cans were collected from across the U.S. and one Canadian province and testing found nearly all canned food is contaminated with BPA at an average of 77 parts per billion (ppb). In contrast, in FDA's last canned food testing done in 1996 in just 6 samples of vegetables and found an average of 16 ppb, nearly 5 times less than the average level of contamination being reported in this much larger sample.

I've blogged before about green beans being contaminated with BPA, after testing done by Consumer Reports. This testing confirms that some of the foods that we consider the most "healthy" in our diet, are also the most contaminated with BPA. Delmonte French Style Green Beans, Great Value Sweet Peas, 365 and Healthy Valley brands of organic soup, and Healthy Choice chicken soups were some of the foods found to have the highest levels of BPA. Delmonte green beans were the most contaminated, one can had a whoppping 1,140 ppb, though there was a lot of variation found both within brands and between different brands of food. The bottom line is that consumers can't avoid BPA by relying on a particular brand, type of food, price, quality, or nutritional value of canned food. This is a problem we need our government to solve!

The FDA has been slow to acknowledge the harm caused by BPA and has been reluctant to regulate the use of this chemical in food packaging. While they continue to conduct research and deliberate when there will be enough evidence to compel them to act, Americans continue to be exposed on daily basis to this chemical which has been linked a wide array of harmful effects.  And while it is great that some companies have voluntarily moved away from using BPA, we remain in the dark about what alternatives are being used and what their potential toxicity may be. NRDC is working on federal legislation that would ensure the safety of new replacement can linings *before* they are introduced onto the market.

The good news is that it is possible to eat your vegetables and have them be BPA-free. Previous tests of frozen food or food packaged in box or pouch have found much lower or non-detectable levels of BPA. Like previous studies, canned tomatos, contained relatively low BPA levels - similar to those found in frozen food - which suggests it is possible to can food with little to no BPA contamination.

This study found higher levels of BPA than were found in previous studies, perhaps because they directly tested the food in the cans rather than the amount of BPA that leached from the lining. Obviously, this type of testing is more realistic of what the average person might ingest when eating canned food. In fact, the report found that an average woman consuming just a few meals prepared with canned food would ingest between 1-2 ppb per day, levels of exposure that have been associated with harm in laboratory animal studies.

Why am I concerned about BPA?  BPA is a hormone disrupting chemical that acts like the female sex hormone, estrogen, and can interfere with normal development and function of the body. In animal studies, developmental BPA exposure has been linked to prostate cancer, breast cancer, pre-diabetes (insulin resistance), changes in fat metabolism, and changes in the way the brain develops resulting in behavioral abnormalities. Emerging human research has found similar evidence of harm. And all of us are exposed; over 90% of Americans tested by the CDC were found to have residues of BPA in their bodies.

NRDC recommends that everyone, especially pregnant women and young children, reduce their exposure to BPA as much as possible.

 We have more information BPA and recommendations for avoiding exposure on our website. These include:

  • Limit your consumption of canned food by eating fresh or frozen produce and buying processed food in "brick" cartons, pouches or glass.
  • Limit your consumption of canned soda and beer - where possible choose glass as an alternative.
  • If you have a newborn, avoid baby bottles or sippy cups made of polycarbonate (hard, clear, shatterproof) plastic. They are marked with the recycling symbol #7, and sometimes labeled "PC." (Not all #7 plastics are polycarbonates-the only way to know for sure is to call the manufacturer.)
  • Use a BPA-free reusable water bottle, such as an unlined stainless steel bottle.
  • Don't allow your children to have dental sealants made from BPA (or BADGE) applied to their teeth, and don't have these sealants applied to your teeth while you are pregnant. Ask your dentist to provide BPA-free treatments.
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Comments

laraMay 19 2010 12:16 PM

Thank you for this! I don't understand why we do not have a working FDA anymore. Normally that would be their job to protect US...not the corporations from us. When did it all go wrong? Someone needs to do a documentary on the FDA and why they are not protecting our food and drug supply.

This is the first time I read that canned tomatoes were low in BPA, I thought they were among the highest. I previously bought tomato paste in a can and made everything from scratch from there. Now I look for tomato products in glass, but then they are mostly made starting with tomato paste from a can just like I did. How are we supposed to buy/eat pasta sauce, ketchup, salsa etc. if everything comes from a can originally? The only thing I can find is sundried tomatoes in a glass jar.

MelaniMay 19 2010 08:16 PM

Thanks for your tireless work on this, Sarah!

jennfer yuMay 23 2010 10:28 PM

please do not put that much bpa in our food.

Comments are closed for this post.

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Switchboard is the staff blog of the Natural Resources Defense Council, the nation’s most effective environmental group. For more about our work, including in-depth policy documents, action alerts and ways you can contribute, visit NRDC.org.

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