A new database launched by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) is aimed at helping consumers identify food products that may be packaged in materials containing bisphenol A, or BPA, the controversial endocrine-disrupting chemical that alters hormones and has been linked to serious health issues including cancer, infertility, brain, nervous system and cardiovascular abnormalities, diabetes, and obesity.
“No other industry in the world is more adept at marketing products to its customers than food and beverage companies––except apparently when it comes to informing them about the possible presence of a toxic chemical linked to hormone disruption and cancer,” EWG president Ken Cook said in a statement. “So we decided to give them a little help in making their own data more accessible to Americans.”
Part of EWG’s Food Scores interactive website, the "BPA Bombshell" lists approximately 16,000 food and beverage items likely contaminated with BPA, which is widely used in the 126 billion food cans manufactured in the U.S. each year.
The information comes via the food industry’s own websites created to comply with California Prop 65 regulations that list BPA as a substance that may cause cancer, birth defects, and reproductive health issues. Food packaging is the number one source of BPA exposure.
“[A]fter the state added BPA to the list of such chemicals, it allowed generic warning signs at checkout registers instead [of shelf or product labels],” EWG said in a press release. “In the process of complying with the state’s regulation, food companies unexpectedly and with little public notice laid bare more information than ever before about BPA in food and beverage containers.”
The register warning signs direct consumers to an industry website that lists consumer trade groups and the products and brands they represent that may contain the chemical, sending consumers out to dozens of sub lists to determine the safety of the products they purchase.
“A lot of the information coming from the industry site was pretty vague,” EWG researcher Samara Geller told Organic Authority.
“People shouldn’t have to struggle from PDF to PDF on the industry website to make sense of the jumble of information.”
According to EWG, the data detail the widespread BPA risk, citing its presence in nearly every supermarket aisle: “It's in the linings or lids of glass jars for baby food, pickles, jelly, salsa and other condiments; aerosol cans for whipped toppings and non-stick sprays; bottles and tins of cooking oil; aluminum beverage cans, coffee cans and even beer kegs.”
“We really wanted to shine a light on the nonconventional packaging—like jars and bottle with metal lug caps and lids,” says Geller. Most concern over BPA has been directed toward canned food and beverage linings or baby products, but aerosol cans and thousands of jar and bottle lids also contain the chemical.
More than 900 brands makes up the 16,000 + products called out by EWG, including dozens of organic food products including the Whole Foods 365 private label items and Wolfgang Puck's organic pasta sauces and soups. Numerous Trader Joe’s private label items also made the list including salsa, pickles, and olives.
“We have every reason to believe that these are products that intentionally contain BPA instead of accidental exposure,” explains Geller.
“Our concern is that we should be very focused on these compound exposures that are happening daily.”
BPA was detected in 93 percent of human samples analyzed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention between 2003-2004. In 2009, an EWG study found BPA present in the umbilical cords of nine of 10 infants.
Efforts to regulate BPA in the U.S. have been met with resistance from both the food industry and the FDA. In 2010, the FDA urged food manufacturers to replace BPA in food products—specifically those for children. Thirteen states have banned BPA in children’s cups and baby bottles as well as reusable food containers, and some manufacturers like Campbell’s have replaced BPA, but substitutes like BPS (Bisphenol S) may be just as harmful. Some research says they may pose even greater health risks. In a 2014 updated safety assessment, the FDA declared BPA in food can linings safe.
You can find the BPA database at EWG's Food Scores here.
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