Get BPAs Out Of Food

By Estelle Hayes

Since the invention of the can in 1810, we have relied on the convenience of canned foods to save time in the kitchen and on the go (although the can opener wasn’t invented until 1858, so go figure). Problem is the linings of almost all cans we rely on contain bisphenol A (BPA), a controversial chemical also used in certain types of plastic bottles, utensils and the coatings for cash-register receipts. BPA has been directly associated with higher rates of brain and breast cancer. So even if you buy organic vegetables, if they come in a conventional can, you aren’t doing your body any favors.

There’s not a lot of dispute in this matter: repeated studies around the world—the latest from China—show that BPA is a hormone disruptor: it interferes with the way your body produces and regulates estrogen, testosterone, and other hormones, such as insulin. That is why studies have linked it to breast and prostate cancers and to metabolic diseases like diabetes. Meningioma is a hormonal cancer influenced by high levels of female hormones– one reason the cancer is more often seen in women. Federal studies estimate that the chemical has been found in the urine of more than 90 percent of the US population. The China Study links BPA to erectile dysfunction—which probably will be motive enough to get a rise, so to speak, out of the Feds.

But the most vulnerable targets are children. As with many types of toxic exposures, children are at greater risk because the dose is higher compared to body weight, and kids’ bodies aren’t fully developed enough to deal with chemical invaders. BPA can throw off the body’s hormonal system, potentially leading to everything from early puberty in girls, obesity, and cancer to infertility and developmental problems. It is a sad fact that many canned foods are aimed directly at our kids—from easy to heat pastas and soups to lunchbox snack packs. Great strides have been made in ridding BPA from baby bottles and sport water bottles, but more needs to be done.
Moms, this is a big one we can actually do something about. Here are a few alternatives:

1. Eden Foods uses a safe BPA alternative is all its canned foods–oleoresinous c-enamel, a mixture of oil and a resin extracted from plants. Muir Glen food products made after 2011 are also BPA safe. The Breast Cancer Fund warns that other companies are advertising as using BPA alternatives, however, they aren’t disclosing what they’re using, so it’s hard to say whether their alternatives any better for you. By the way, a group of moms up in arms have led a signature campaign at Campbell’s Soup and company management made a pledge at their 2012 Annual Meeting in February to change their canning process. Heinz, Del Monte and General Mills say they are doing the same. If you want to get involved with the Breast Cancer Fund’s Cans Not Cancer campaign, click here.

2. Look for Tetra Pak (boxed) packaged soups and vegetables. Tetra Pak is made of 70 percent paperboard combined with thin layers of LDPE (low density polyethylene) and aluminum foil and used widely throughout Europe and increasingly in the United States for juice, soups, liquid dairy products and even wine.

3. Frozen fruits and vegetables? Sad truth is, many even organic fruits and vegetables are harvested fresh, flash-frozen and then packaged in plastic bags containing BPA. You can reduce the risk by making sure never to cook the items in the bags, but rather transfer to a glass container for microwaving. Here again, frozen boxed foods will be a safer bet.

4. Other types of plastic containers—bags for tuna and pouches for single-serving pastas have been found to contain lower BPAs, but Consumer Reports says they aren’t totally free of the chemicals. You will find fresh soup and meal alternatives in the refrigerator section of high end grocers, like Whole Foods, that appear to be safe alternatives.

5. Bottom line, as always: For a toxic-freer life, buy fresh, organic, locally grown and sourced produce whenever possible. Make soups and pasta dishes for lunches and quick grabs fresh the day (or days) before you need them. Pack them in glass or stainless steel—of BPA-free plastic–containers. Love yourself and your family enough to make the extra effort whenever possible.
A few other notes:

• Avoid plastic utensils in school lunches and for picnics—they also likely contain BPA and have been banned from schools in Japan. Bamboo is a great, safe, lightweight and non-fussy alternative.
• Avoid taking cash register receipts whenever possible—have them email it to you on big purchase, and when they ask if you want a receipt at Starbucks, just say no thank you.

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  • Megan browne

    so interesting, thanks!

  • Torrie @ a place to share…

    so informative estelle.  ryan and i have been wanting to learn more about this exact topic and this gives us a great start… lots of things to think about- and to take action on.

    • pinkmoondaily

      It’s a crazy issue. Lately, all I can think about are all those poor cashiers who have to handle those receipts all day long. Why can’t we just go back to using regular paper? Seems crazy.