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May 18th, 2010
01:51 PM ET

BPA present in most canned food, groups allege

By Caleb Hellerman
Senior Producer, CNN Medical News

The chemical bisphenol-A, more commonly known as BPA, is present in virtually all canned foods, according to a report released today by environmental groups who say the omnipresent chemical poses a health risk, especially to infants and pregnant women. BPA is present in the thin plastic lining that protects the surface of metal food containers. A coalition calling itself “The National Workgroup for Safe Markets” conducted laboratory tests on 50 samples of canned food, purchased in stores or donated from home pantries in 19 U.S. states and Canada. Of the 50, 46 contained at least some BPA. The median level was 35 parts per billion, but some food had much more, as high as 1,140 parts per billion in a can of Del Monte green beans.

Bisphenol-A is what is known as an endocrine disruptor, meaning it has the potential to affect the hormones – chemical signals – that direct a range of processes in the body. In animal studies, researchers have linked BPA to various developmental problems, from behavior issues to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease.

Whether BPA is harmful to humans is unclear. Back in 1963, the FDA declared it safe, but more recently, there’s been a scientific reappraisal. The National Toxicology Program now says there is "some concern" for BPA's effects on the brain, behavior and prostate gland, in developing fetuses, infants and children. In January, the FDA posted guidelines urging parents to minimize infants’ exposure through bottles and feeding cups, but it stopped short of saying there is a definite risk of harm.

Pete Myers, a biologist who has studied the effects of BPA, says the level of in baby bottles that triggered alarm, was less than 30 parts per billion, lower than the numbers reported Tuesday about canned food. Myers is chief scientist at the privately-funded group Environmental Health Sciences, based in Charlottesville, Virginia, and has written several articles critical of BPA, including an editorial in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

The Environmental Protection Agency has also taken steps toward further study and possible restrictions of BPA, although the process is still under review. The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences is funding $30 million worth of research on BPA, with the first round of findings expected as early as this summer, Myers said.

Myers says that research on animals, and other research involving human cell tissue, show that BPA may suppress the production of a hormone – adiponectin – that protects against heart disease. His biggest worry involves a pregnant woman who ingests BPA and passes it on to her developing fetus. “There are some indications it may concentrate in the fetus. It’s definitely not something the fetus is protected from,” says Myers. “There are several [health concerns about BPA], but for me the most worrisome relate to diabetes and heart disease, triggered in infancy or in the womb.”

The FDA declined to comment on Tuesday’s report.

The Grocery Manufacturer’s Association and several makers of canned goods said Tuesday that BPA is not a safety issue. However, both Del Monte and Conagra, whose Healthy Choice soups were tested by the coalition and found to contain BPA, said they are exploring alternatives to BPA in can liners. Conagra told CNN that “as part of our ongoing commitment to providing quality products that meet or exceed consumer expectations, we are constantly looking for new and better ways to package our products. That includes finding safe and effective replacement can liners that do not use BPA.”

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soundoff (58 Responses)
  1. Sanity

    Folks, believe it or not, everything, and I mean EVERYTHING you put into your mouth IS TOXIC.
    Even WATER. Even pure DISTILLED water.
    Drink ENOUGH of it, and it WILL KILL YOU!!
    The point I'm trying to illustrate here is it's the QUANTITY of ANYTHING that makes it harmful to us.
    Down a 1 oz. shot of alcohol, no problemo.
    Down a 750 ml bottle of alcohol.... you'll probably be dead.
    Take one Ambien for a restful night's sleep.
    Take the bottle of 30.... you'll sleep permanently.
    It's all about QUANTITY people, no matter what substance it is.
    I remember the days when lab rats were fed 100X normal human quantities of an artificial sweetner and then developed cancer. Well, DUH... I wonder why???

    May 20, 2010 at 10:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Jim Schlarbaum

    Anyone ever thought about the amount of plastic bags and plastic wrap used daily in the average household not to mention the plastic packages your food/bev comes in already. It would make can's look like the way to go!
    Bon Appetite!

    May 20, 2010 at 11:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. curtn

    KVM, I too had heart palpitations and when I stopped drinking diet soda with caffeine they stopped. Not sure if it was the caffeine or aspartame but nothing else in my diet was changed.

    May 20, 2010 at 12:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Jim

    I’ve reviewed data from two separate studies testing for industrial chemicals in people selected randomly, one in California (Taking It All In) and one in Maine (Body of Evidence). It’s amazing to see the high levels of all chemicals including BPA. In one young lady, a high school athlete in Maine, her BPA levels were 10 time the national average, she drank a lot of bottled water. People would be surprised to find the levels of chemicals in their bodies if everyone did get tested. We wonder why our bodies are reacting with different diseases! Where is industry in testing and providing data on cause and effect of their chemicals in humans? Because most industrial chemicals aren’t designed to be ingested, absorbed or inhaled the industries aren’t held accountable. We hear the standard answers from them that “there’s no scientific proof of the claim” all to prevent a massive lawsuit. The government doesn’t push it either relying on industry so nothing gets done until it’s proven to have negative effects with an excellent example being dioxin. If everyone was tested for industrial chemicals, the people in this country would be outraged!

    May 20, 2010 at 12:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Matt

    Has anyone ever heard of statistics? They tested 50 cans. 50. If every person in the US bought 10 cans a year (which I'm sure is an enormous underestimate) then that would be over 3 billion cans a year. I haven't run the numbers but I'm will to bet that a 92% correlation (46/50) would have less than a 1% confidence level. ie, there is a 99% chance that the data is just random noise. If you want to make informed decisions to exclude certain products, that's fine, but you can NEVER make policy choices based on random noise, nor can you be afraid of it. Its like sampling one pixel on a tv screen showing white noise and concluding the entire screen is black based on your result. There is no meaning in that kind of measurement, and often enough, it's dead wrong.

    What it does mean, is that it is possible to have BPA in cans, and thus warrants a proper statistical study. But that's it.

    May 20, 2010 at 17:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Jean

    When we lived where Sierra Water Co. (same company who told me their company delivers their water to the Whitehouse) we received our water in 3 or 5 gallon thick GLASS bottles. We purchased a water cooler that allows you to place the 5 gallon GLASS bottles inside the lower cabinet door instead of lifting the 5 gallon GLASS bottle filled with water and turning it upside down on top the unit. Now, we are no longer where Sierra Water serves us so we have to purchase 2-1/2 gallon spring or artesian water in PLASTIC containers which we don't like doing. How long has the water been in the plastic containers before reaching the store and being sold. We also purchase more than 5 gallons at a time cause we use it so fast as we only give good water to our pets too. Why not go back to canning in the beautiful glass quarts and pints my Mother used with the glass tops and the rubber seals (now Antiques). I still have some of my Mother's GLASS jars and a few packages of the canning rubber seals (sure the seals would not be good after 50 years in their boxes) I, frankly, don't like the looks of the inside of some cans I've opened, very discolored inside, some that had canned tomatoes in them, I was afraid to use and dumped contents down garbage disposer. Milk cartons have a wax inside so the milk doesn't touch the plastic, so maybe wax should be required inside all plastic containers, including freezing and storage plastic containers. I used to purchase GLASS freezer jars but can't find them anymore. If you use your GLASS canning jars to Freeze in them even once, it is not safe to use them next time in a pressure cooker to can; they can break and have to throw away contents. If doing this, you have to keep Glass Canning Jars used for freezing (and if packed too full they could burst in the freezer to as these glass jars seem to be getting thinner every year! Now, I'm concerned about my dogs; I used to buy dog food from a holistic company who said their dog food is canned in "human grade" cans so I purchased theirs while in the area where being sold, but now we are talking about this "human grade" cans having BPA chemicals. Since this was a big selling point with the holistic pet food co. "human grade" cans, I wonder what how safe other natural and holistic pet food co's cans are and how about the cheaper canned dog/cat foods that cost 2-3 times less than the natural or holistic.

    One article from a person included in this reporting said that people are living longer than they used to, but I ask are they living a better quality of life?? Younger people today are getting all kinds of health problems, including more kinds of cancer then ever before and I believe when some say people are living longer in general, perhaps they are but they are suffering and families/relatives are stressed over young folks with a multitude of health problems and although many cancers are put into remission for a period of time, it is still a worry and stress on those folks wondering every day if the cancer is going to return. Yes, with Big Pharma and doctor's prescribing pill after pill for everything under the sun (most of those diseases or hormonal inadequacies didn't exist years ago), some lives are being extended, but wouldn't it be so much better to stop all the chemical spraying and use natural things to kill bugs (and there are natural things that can be used to attain the same results as chemicals. All these chemicals are put in food to attain a very long shelf life. I don't even use a cookie jar (I have some on high shelves for decoration), but who wants to make homemade cookies that don't have preservatives and let them sit in cookie jars for weeks. Real food starts deteroriating only minutes after it is baked or cooked. I freeze my cookies and by the way, my M.D. doctor several years ago told me to avoid plastic (I even sold all my Tupperware collection in my garage sale). I said then, Doctor, how do I freeze or store my foods. He said you purchase wax paper, wrap the food in waxpaper, then cover that with heavy duty foil and freeze and mark on the foil with freezer marking pen so you know what the contents are. When M.D. doctors give such advice, I believe they know what chemicals can do to one's body. When I had experience to visit Dr. Contrares Cancer Clinic in Playous, Mexico, during one of his lectures he said "You Americans don't really know what real food tastes like with all the Salt & Sugar you use"; the next piece of advice was "Go Home And Eat At NAT- U- RALLY (Naturally), but that Doctor's broken English it was pronounced and are family sometimes tell each other "we're going to have to get back to doing what Dr. Contrares told us "eat as Nat – U – Rally as possible". This should always be No. 1 in your life, not material things. We as Seniors looking back wonder why maintaing good health by proper diet wasn't taught starting in Grade School.

    May 22, 2010 at 10:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. brendan

    Does anyone know if BLACK AND DECKER ERGO 3 CUP FOOD CHOPPER contains BPA or the other harmful plastic resins in the plastic cup? Man the gov needs to stop authorizing harmful substances NOW!!!!!

    May 28, 2010 at 18:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. HOROSCOP

    E placut sa vezi ca mai sunt oameni care gandesc altfel..

    April 7, 2011 at 06:12 | Report abuse | Reply
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