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Many People Being Exposed to Hazardous Chemical Bisphenol A from Canned Food

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Cans-of-foodA small study suggests people may be routinely exposed to the chemical bisphenol A through everyday consumption of canned goods. Bisphenol A, also known in BPA, has been associated with a variety of health problems in laboratory animals, including cancers, early puberty, and developmental problems.

The study has food safety and consumer advocates calling for a crackdown on BPA in a food safety bill expected to reach Senate debate in the coming weeks.

Bisphenol A Uses

Bisphenol A is widely used in plastics and as a lining for cans holding everything from soup to fruit to tuna.

Bisphenol A Under Scrutiny

Bisphenol A has come under intense scrutiny in recent years because in addition to preserving food, Bisphenol A mimics human hormones and has been classified as an endocrine disruptor. Endocrine disruptors are substances that act like hormones  in the endocrine system and disrupt the physiologic function of endogenous hormones. Endocrine disruptors can cause adverse biological effects in animals, giving rise to concerns that low-level exposure to endocrine disruptors might cause similar effects in human beings.

Because BPA can leach from the liner into the food itself,  sensitive groups such as kids and pregnant women should limit canned food consumption.

Five states and several municipalities have restricted the use of BPA in baby products and infant formula cans because of concerns that exposure to BPA may be dangerous for young children.

Bisphenol A Canned Food Study

The study conducted by a coalition of consumer and food safety groups, though small, suggests BPA  may be widely consumed by children and adults in everyday groceries.

The researchers found detectable levels of BPA in 46 of 50 grocery store cans tested. The results suggest BPA routinely leaches from can linings into food.

The highest BPA level detected was 1,140 parts per billion, found in a can of Del Monte French Style Green Beans obtained from the pantry of a study participant in Wisconsin.

Previous studies have shown that beverages appear to contain less BPA residues, while canned pasta and soups contain the highest levels of BPA.

Consumer Advocate Concern about Bisphenol A

"We should not set a place for bisphenol A at the dinner table," Elizabeth Hitchcock, a public health advocate for the U.S. Public Interest Research Group (PIRG), said at a news conference on Capitol Hill.
Congressional Action to Ban BPA

Consumer advocates are backing moves in Congress to ban BPA. A ban on BPA could be considered when the Senate takes up broad food safety legislation in the coming weeks.

Congressional Support

"I no longer eat food out of cans. I no longer buy cans, I look for jars," said Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif. Feinstein is sponsoring a bill banning BPA from food packaging but also allows for a one-year delay in the BPA ban so manufacturers using BPA containing packaging materials can have time to shift to other packaging materials.

"It's amazing to me that everybody doesn't jump quick to do this," said Feinstein, who pointed out that Maryland, Connecticut, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Washington have all restricted the sale of baby and infant products containing BPA.

Feinstein pointed out that U.S. law doesn't require companies to prove chemicals like BPA are safe before using them in a way that exposes the food supply.

Feinstein said she'd back legislation forcing companies to prove the safety of the chemicals they use before they reach grocery stores.

Industry Groups weigh in Regarding Bisphenol A

Industry groups oppose any such BPA restrictions or BPA bans. In a statement, the North American Metal Packaging Alliance pointed out that governments in Japan, Australia, and Europe have concluded BPA is safe for humans at low doses.

In a statement, the Grocery Manufacturers of America noted "BPA has been used for over 30 years" in food and beverage packaging, including cans. Scientists and regulatory agencies who have reviewed BPA have concluded that BPA is safe for use in these products."

What you Can Do to Limit BPA exposure from Food

Rinsing canned fruit or vegetables with water prior to heating and serving could lessen BPA ingestion.

SOURCES:

  • "No Silver Lining: An Investigation into Bisphenol A in Canned Foods," National Workgroup for Safe Markets, May 18, 2010.
  • Elizabeth Hitchcock, public health advocate, U.S. Public Interest Research Group.
  • Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.
  • Grocery Manufacturers of America.
  • North American Metal Packaging Alliance Inc.
Last modified on Friday, 30 March 2012 16:05
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