RODALE NEWS, EMMAUS, PA—Your can of soup could put your health at risk, and not just because it contains way too much salt. A new report published by the National Workgroup for Safe Markets, a coalition of public- and environmental health-advocacy groups, reveals that cans of food expose people to dangerous levels of bisphenol A (BPA), a hormone-disrupting chemical that has been linked to everything from childhood aggression to obesity and heart disease
THE DETAILS: Consumer Reports conducted similar tests on BPA in canned food a few months ago, but this new report, titled "No Silver Lining," looks at the levels in canned food products as well as how much BPA an average person would ingest from eating the foods packaged in those cans. The authors collected 50 samples of canned food from home pantries in 19 states and one Canadian province, and had them tested by an independent lab to determine BPA levels in each can. Then, they calculated how much an average-weight (156.5 pounds) woman in her 20s would ingest from a typical daily diet of canned and fresh foods (they focused on young women because they are most likely to go on to bear children, and more and more studies are finding that some of the most damaging effects of BPA in children happen while they're in utero). The laboratory detected BPA in 92 percent of the canned foods, ranging in levels from non-detectable to 1,140 parts per billion. In terms of what that means to people eating canned food, here's a brief summary of what they found:
• By eating a serving of canned peaches with breakfast, a can of ravioli for lunch, a can of chicken noodle soup as a snack, canned chili for dinner, and using coconut milk in a dessert a woman could ingest 75.4 ?g, or 1.06 ?g/kg body weight of BPA;
• By eating a serving of canned peaches with breakfast, a can of lentil soup for lunch, and tuna casserole made with canned tuna, peas, cream of mushroom soup, and vegetable broth for dinner, followed by bananas in canned coconut milk for dessert, she could ingest 87.28 ?g, or 1.23 ?g/kg body weight of BPA through canned foods alone.
• By eating no canned goods in the morning and afternoon, and just one can of soda and a single serving of green beans at dinnertime, she could ingest 138.19 ?g, or 1.95 ?g/kg body weight of BPA.
Although the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has said that an exposure level of 50 ?g/kg body weight of BPA per day is safe, the authors note that these low levels have been found in both human and animal studies to be linked with aggressive behavior, changes in breast tissue and other reproductive organs, and long-term reproductive health problems.
WHAT IT MEANS: The Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA), an industry group that includes canned-food companies, responded to the report by insisting that BPA is safe and that more studies are needed to show that the levels in canned foods are harmful. "GMA will rely on the current and recently reaffirmed regulatory determinations by FDA [Food and Drug Administration] that foods in cans with linings that utilize BPA are safe," the group said in a statement. However, they may be relying on old FDA opinions. The agency for years insisted that BPA was safe, relying on two industry-funded studies confirming their position and ignoring the hundreds of independently funded studies that disagreed with them. But in January, they finally conceded that BPA could be dangerous. "On the basis of results from recent studies using novel approaches to test for subtle effects, both the National Toxicology Program at the National Institutes of Health and FDA have some concern about the potential effects of BPA on the brain, behavior, and prostate gland in fetuses, infants, and young children," the agency writes on its website. It also notes that it is encouraging the industry to seek alternatives to BPA-based can linings.