Consumer Reports' latest tests of canned foods, including soups, juice, tuna, and green beans, have found that almost all of the 19 name-brand foods tested contain measurable levels of Bisphenol A (BPA). Find the full article by clicking here.
"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 near levels that have caused adverse effects in several animal studies.
The lack of any safety margin between the levels that cause harm in animals and those that people could potentially ingest from canned foods has been inadequately addressed by the FDA to date."
-Dr. Urvashi Rangan, Director of Technical Policy, at Consumers Union-
That long-loved-favorite green bean casserole you planned to make for Thanksgiving... Forget about it!
You don't want to feed your family any extra doses of BPA--and that's exactly what they'll get from a dish made with Del Monte Fresh Cut Blue Lake Green Beans (the canned food that ranked #2 in CR tests for the highest level of BPA) and canned Campbell's Cream of Mushroom Soup.
Back in May 2008 when the "BPA-Thing" first surfaced, all the news was about getting rid of our Nalgene bottles, plastic baby products, and other hard plastics. But cans are the real insidious problem. Here's what I wrote back then:
Until the FDA starts labeling plastics and cans so we know which ones have BPA why not do what Dr. Fred vom Saal and every other scientist who studies BPA has done.
- Stay away from cans. Eden Organic Beans are the only ones documented to not have BPA. (*but the consumer union found trace amounts in these) The Environmental Working Group says cans, more than plastic, are the predominant way we are getting exposed to BPA. They're lined with an epoxy that contains BPA that can leach out when heated during processing. In the presence of acids like tomatoes, and alcohol even more is leached out. Think canned beer. Organic Grace is maintaining a very helpful list of which manufacturers have BPA in their cans. It's continually updated, so keep checking back. That means no soft drinks, no canned beer, no cans of V-8, no canned soups, no canned tomatoes, you name it! By the way, Japan eliminated 95% of the BPA from their cans 10 years ago. But stay away from cans from China-it's in theirs.
The Results of the Consumer Reports Tests on Bisphenol A in Canned Products
- The canned products with the highest levels of BPA: Del Monte Canned Green Beans (54.5-102 ppb of BPA), Progresso Vegetable Soup 67-134 ppb of BPA), and Campbell's Condensed Chicken Noodle Soup 54.5-102 ppb of BPA). The Consumer Union tested a sampling of canned foods, like tuna, baby formula, beans, meats, vegetables, and juices. Every product was tested 3 times for accuracy. For a pdf of the complete Consumer Reports test results of food products click here
- Why should I care? What's a dangerous level? Now don't zone out on these numbers! I've really worked hard on these conversions to make sense of them. The food safety experts at the Consumer Union put the upper limit for daily exposure of BPA at .0024 micrograms of BPA per kilogram of body weight.
Here's What Those Safe Limits Really Mean:
For a 50 lb. child: .054 micrograms/day (1 serving of Del Monte Green Beans (14.9 BPA mcg/serving) is 275 times the upper safe limit)
For a 130 lb. woman: .14 micrograms/day (1 serving of Del Monte Green Beans (14.9 BPA mcg/serving) is 106 times the upper safe limit)
For a 180 lb man: .2 micrograms/day (1 serving of Del Monte Green Beans (14.9 BPA mcg/serving) is 74 times the upper safe limit)
Want to figure out how much you or your child can safely ingest daily? First convert your weight from pounds to kilograms by clicking here for a handy converter. Then multiply .0024 by your kilogram weight. That's your upper daily limit for micrograms of BPA. If you look at the PDF of the Consumer Reports test results you'll find the BPA micrograms/serving for the products they tested--in the right-hand column. Click here for the table. Bottom Line: Stay away from cans!
- What about babies & children? Formula & Juice? Bad news! Similac Advance Infant Formula liquid in cans averaged .85 mcg/serving of BPA and a 15 pound infant's limit should be .016 mcg of BPA/day! Powdered Similac in a can was a much safer alternative with no measurable levels of BPA. Juicy Juice Apple juice in a can had 2.3 mcg/serving of BPA--45 times times a 50 pound child's limit of .054 mcg/day of BPA. No worries--juice boxes to the rescue. No measurable BPA was found in the Juicy Juice boxes!
- Was there any BPA found in the BPA-free cans? There aren't too many of these around, only Eden Organics beans and Vital Choice tuna, as far as I know. The tests on Eden baked beans found .15 mcg/serving. Bush's Baked Beans in "regular cans" had .6 mcg/serving. Vital Choice tuna in "BPA-Free" cans averaged 1.15 mcg/serving, which was more than in conventional cans of Starkist Chunk Light Tuna in water--which had only .2 mcg of BPA/serving.
- Which packaging is safest? Good news here! Just ditch buying food in cans, until manufacturers wise up & eliminate the BPA-containing epoxy liners. Here's what was safe: Starkist Tuna in a pouch, Bird's Eye Steam Fresh frozen vegetables in plastic steam bags (even after microwaving there was no increase in BPA--big surprise to me), juice boxes. Although not specifically tested, I would assume that soup and tomatoes in the Tetra-boxes would be safe.
Comparing the FDA Safe Limits for BPA to the Consumer Union's Limits
- The FDA currently puts the upper limit for BPA exposure to 50 mcg BPA/kg of body weight.(Consumer Union food-safety scientists say .0024 mcg BPA/kg of body weight).
For a 50 lb. child: 1100 mcg of BPA/day
For a 130 lb. woman: 2950 mcg of BPA/day
For a 180 lb man: 4100 of mcg of BPA/day
- Why is this so much higher than the Consumer Union's? The FDA's upper safe limits are based on experiments done in the 1980's--rather than using the hundreds of more recent animal & laboratory studies that found serious health risks from much lower doses of BPA.
- What has newer research found? Adverse effects have been shown at exposures of 2.4 mcg of BPA/kg of body weight/per day. Compare that to the FDA's "safe level" of 50 mcg of BPA/kg of body weight/per day--based on research over 20 years old.
92% of Americans have BPA in their urine. Hundreds of animal studies show potentially cancerous changes in the mammary and prostate tissue of animals when they ingest the same small amounts of BPA that humans ingest. Increased risk for diabetes, heart disease, reproductive problems, and behavior problems (including ADHD & autism) have been linked to BPA, as well as decreased testosterone levels in men (a study just published on 11/11/09 found sexual problems were 4-7 times higher in workers exposed to BPA ), breast and uterine cancer in women. It's long been known as an "endocrine disrupter", which means it interferes with the body's hormonal balance. To read more about the risks, click here and here.
- Bills are pending in Congress to ban the use of BPA in all food & beverage containers. BPA is restricted in Canada, Japan, Norway, and in some U.S. states. A congressional subcommittee found in 2009 that the FDA relied too heavily on the research sponsored by the American Plastics Council, and the FDA will soon decide if their current upper safe limits for BPA need to be revised.
"When you have 92% of the American population exposed to a chemical, this is not one where you want to be wrong. Are we going to quibble over individual rodent studies, or are we going to act?"
-Dr. Ted Schettler of the Science and Environmental Health Network-
Want to read more?
The Consumer Reports December 2009 article Click here . You'll need to click on each section on the left.
The excellent Consumer Union's "Buy Safe, Eat Well Blog" about the article. Click here.
Nicholas D. Kristof's op-ed New York Times article "Chemicals in Our Food, and Bodies" about the Consumer Reports article. Click here.
What am I going to do?
- Cut down on canned beans. Start cooking my own beans in batches in my crockpot & freezing them.
- I found chopped tomatoes in a Tetra brik box made by Pomi at Whole Foods.
- Look for food packaged in Tetra brik boxes, pouches, glass jars, and in frozen bags or boxes.
- I'm confident that consumer demand will soon ban BPA in cans--it worked for baby bottles.