BPA in canned foods marketed to kids, group warns
Angela Mulholland, CTVNews.ca
Published Wednesday, September 21, 2011 9:08PM EDT
Many of us have gotten rid of water bottles and baby bottles that might contain BPA.
But a cancer advocacy group is raising the alarm about BPA in canned food, noting it's still prevalent in most canned products, including those meant for children.
The Breast Cancer Fund, a group that seeks answers on the environmental risks for breast cancer, released a study Wednesday on BPA levels in canned soups and pastas.
They found they all contain BPA, or bisphenol A, including the organic brands.
The average level was 49 parts per billion. Topping the list was Campbell's Disney Princess Cool Shapes, with 148 parts per billion.
The group says that the BPA levels it found "are of great concern because BPA disrupts the body's delicate hormonal systems." It says it's particularly concerned about the effect of repeatedly serving canned soups, pastas, fruits and vegetables to children and through their developing years.
BPA is a chemical used in manufacturing that has raised a number of health concerns. The chemical can mimic estrogen and some studies have found it can cause reproductive problems in lab animals. It has also been linked to some forms of cancer in animals. But it's been unclear whether those studies mean the chemical also causes problems for humans.
What is known is that BPA is found in the bodies of most Canadians. Last year, Statistics Canada reported that measurable levels of BPA can be found in the urine of 91 per cent of Canadians.
Last October, Health Canada formally declared bisphenol A a toxic substance. It said at the time that there was "sufficient evidence relating to human health to justify the conclusion that bisphenol A is harmful to human life."
While BPA has been banned in the manufacture of baby bottles, it is still widely used in the lining of food cans. The resin linings help to block metal in the can from leaching into foods and causing a metallic taste.
The North American Metal Packaging Alliance responded to the study by noting there is still no new scientific evidence that BPA is unsafe once it enters the human body.
The group's chairman, John M. Rost, says the BPA exposure levels cited in the Breast Cancer Fund study are consistent with similar surveys of packaged food conducted in the past year by the FDA, Health Canada, and other agencies.
"The only difference is in the conclusions reached," he said.
He points to a recent study funded by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that showed there is no health risk from BPA exposure in canned foods because the body processes and eliminates the chemical through urine.
"In sum, it is very unlikely that BPA could cause health effects," he said.
Rick Smith, executive director of Environmental Defence doesn't buy that. He says there are dozens of scientific studies that show that BPA is a potent hormone-disrupting chemical
"So for the canning industry to pretend there is a safe level in cans -- and to try to convince consumers of that -- is ludicrous," he tells CTV News.
Smith notes there are a number of food brands that don't use BPA in their cans and says consumers should start supporting such companies. He also thinks government should ask food makers to take BPA out of cans.
"Some other countries like JAPAN have already got BPA out of their cans entirely. So this problem can be solved quickly," he says.
The Breast Cancer Fund says there are a number of ways parents can avoid BPA in canned foods. They suggest:
- Cooking dry pasta in fun shapes and mixing it with fresh or jarred pasta sauce
- Boxed macaroni and cheese, which is available in a variety of options, including organic
- Frozen heat-and-serve pasta meals in the frozen-food aisle. (The recommend discarding the plastic bag or tray before heating)
- Soups in large juice-box-style Tetra Pak cartons
- Fresh fruit instead of canned fruit
Other groups have suggested switching to frozen vegetables, and using bottled sauces and vegetables instead of those in cans.