A new report released by the Environmental Working Group (EWG), looks at more than 250 canned food brands for levels of BPA (bisphenol A), the toxic endocrine disruptor linked to a number of health issues.
According to EWG, more than 110 of the brands still used BPA in some or all of their metal can linings and another 100 brands were listed as “uncertain” by the organization because they did not respond to EWG’s queries.
“The biggest problem is that people have no reliable way of knowing whether they are buying food that is laced with this toxic chemical,” Samara Geller, EWG database analyst said in a statement. “Federal regulations do not require manufacturers to label their products to identify cans with BPA-based linings. By releasing this analysis, we hope to arm people with the critical information they need to avoid BPA and make smarter shopping decisions.”
EWG's report sorted the manufacturers into four categories—worst players, best players, better players and uncertain players:
- Worst players: 78 brands use BPA-lined cans for all products.
- Best players: 31 brands use BPA-free cans for all products.
- Better players: 34 brands use BPA-free cans for one or more of their products.
- Uncertain players: 109 brands did not respond to EWG or provide enough information.
In conjunction with the report, EWG also launched a consumer petition designed to pressure the group of “worst players” to stop using BPA.
“The marketplace changes that we are seeing are being driven largely by consumers who are speaking up and demanding cleaner products and better options,” Geller said. “Some companies are entirely BPA-free, while others, like Eden Foods and Natural Value, are virtually BPA-free. We applaud these companies as well as retailers, such as Whole Foods Market, that are pushing the market towards non-BPA alternatives and phasing out BPA-coated products from store shelves.”
Among the brands listed as containing BPA are Target’s Market Pantry, Bush’s, Carnation, Dinty Moore and Eagle Brand, and EWG notes that Amy’s Kitchen, Annie’s Homegrown and Sprouts Farmers Market are among those that are BPA-free.
But consumers should also beware of products labeled as BPA-free as the most common alternative, BPS (bisphenol S), has shown similar health risks to BPA exposure, which include an increased risk for developing breast cancer, reproductive issues, developmental problems for children, heart disease and metabolic issues.
“Thirteen states and a few local governments have taken action to ban BPA in reusable food containers and five states ban or limit it in some disposable food containers,” reports EWG.
In 2011, California banned BPA from baby bottles and sippy cups; in May it added BPA to Proposition 65, the state’s list of toxic chemicals. It’s also banned or restricted in several countries around the world, but the U.S. FDA continues to hold its position that BPA is safe, despite the growing evidence pointing to the contrary.
“Many people on tight budgets or with little access to fresh food rely on canned food as a source of nutrients,” said Renee Sharp, EWG’s director of research. “That’s why we need to get this right. We need a clear national standard that limits the use of BPA in canned food and improves transparency so that people can know when and if they are ingesting this harmful chemical.”
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Canned vegetables image via Shutterstock