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Food Cans Often Still Contain BPA, Despite Health Risks: Report

Although most manufacturers have agreed to phase out use of the controversial chemical bisphenol-A (BPA), a new report suggests that two-thirds of aluminum food cans on store shelves still contain the potentially harmful chemical.

According to a “Buyer Beware” report issued by multiple non-profit groups, the majority of manufacturers still use BPA coatings in canned foods, despite a known risk that the chemical has hormone disrupting side effects.

While many companies have indicated that they removed BPA from their food cans, researchers indicate that most have not, including products made by America’s largest food companies. Testing revealed that 100% of Campbell’s Foods cans contained BPA, as well as 71% of Del Monte canned foods.

Prior studies have highlighted several health risks with BPA, including evidence that the chemical may increase blood pressure and lead to childhood breathing problems following exposure during pregnancy.

The report was compiled jointly by the Breast Cancer Fund, Campaign for Healthier Solutions, Clean Production Action, Ecology Center, and the Mind the Store Campaign.

In addition to high rates of BPA in canned foods produced by Campbell’s and Del Monte, testing also revealed that 50% of General Mills cans contained BPA and 62% of private label or generic food cans also had it, including Albertson, Randall’s, Safeway, Dollar General, Dollar Tree, Family Dollar, Gordon Food Service, Kroger, Loblaw’s, Meijer, Publix, Target, Trader Joe’s, and Walmart.

A report published in 2014, called for the “safe levels” of BPA to be reevaluated, indicating that humans and rats respond differently to endocrine disrupting chemicals. Therefore safety conclusions drawn from animal studies, cannot be relied upon by the industry.

A total of 62% of Kroger products sampled contained the endocrine disrupting chemical, as well as 50% of Albertson’s, 100% of Target, and 88% of Walmart cans tested.

The report indicated that discount retailers are “among the laggards in transitioning away from BPA.” Among cans tested at Dollar General, 83% contained BPA. This is a significant problem, report authors note, since discount retailers are often the major source of food among low income communities.

Overall, researchers indicate that broth and gravy cans were the most likely to contain the chemical, and canned corn and peas were the least likely.

Amy’s Kitchen, Annie’s Homegrown, Hain, Celestial Group, and ConAgra were among the companies whose canned food did not contain BPA. Eden Foods reported eliminating the use of BPA in 95% of its canned foods.

Ubiquitous BPA

Disturbingly, even among cans where BPA was removed, food companies still have little information about what they are using instead. Many companies replace BPA with other similar endocrine disrupting chemicals, such as BPS and BPF.

Research published last year concluded “BPA free” alternative chemicals like BPS, may be just as harmful to human development. Even at low doses, BPS caused changes to neurodevelopment. Scientists have yet to find a reliable alternative that can effectively serve the same purpose as BPA, keeping the can from corroding and affecting the food.

Only some brands disclosed which BPA-replacements they are now using and no national brands or retailers disclose what BPA alternatives they use on the label.

Campbell’s announced Monday a plan to transition to cans without BPA by mid-2017, fulfilling a promise first made in 2012. Del Monte also announced this week a plan to phase out BPA this year. Albertson’s said they are transitioning from BPA in “as many products as possible.”

Whole Foods made the strongest commitment among the companies to eliminate BPA, saying “buyers are not currently accepting any new canned items with BPA in the lining material.”

The endocrine disrupting side effects of BPA are widespread. In addition to being linked to interfering with the proper formation of the human brain it has been linked to a potential cause of cancer. A study published in 2014, found BPA may increase a woman’s risk of developing breast cancer.

Among 192 cans tested researchers found various liners, including acrylic resins including oleoresin, polyester resins, and polyvinyl chloride (PVC) copolymers. Every type of food category had at least some cans coated with BPA.

The FDA maintains BPA is safe for adults, despite imposing a ban on the use of BPA in children’s bottles and sippy cups in 2012.

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Photo Credit: Niloo / Shutterstock.com

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