Significant bisphenol A levels found in canned food

Significant levels of bisphenol A (BPA) have been found in a wide variety of canned food that, for some, could approach levels shown to cause harm in animal studies, according to the US-based Consumers Union (CU).

The US non-profit group’s conclusion came after it tested 19 canned foods – including soups, juice, tuna, and green beans — and found almost all contained “measurable levels of BPA”. The highest levels of the chemical were detected in some samples of green beans and soups, added the CU. The research also demonstrated that the substance can be found in a wide range of canned goods including those labelled as organic and BPA-free, said the body. Its study also claimed that tests of a small number of “comparable products in alternative types of packaging showed lower levels of BPA in most, but not all cases”.

CU Director of Technical Policy Dr. Urvashi Rangan said: “The findings are noteworthy because they indicate the extent of potential exposure. Children eating multiple servings per day of canned foods with BPA levels comparable to the ones we found in some tested products could get a dose of BPA near levels that have caused adverse effects in several animal studies.” BPA, used in the manufacture of polycarbonate and other plastics, has been linked to cardiovascular disease and diabetes in humans and disrupted reproductive development in animals.

The chemical is commonly found in drinking bottles, baby bottles and sipper cups as well as in the lining of aluminum food and beverage cans. However, industry bodies such as the American Chemistry Council (ACC) have insisted BPA is safe — citing opinions from most major food safety bodies across the globe that the chemical poses no health risk to humans at the specified exposure levels. Research findings from limited study The CU acknowledged that its study was limited and that the tests only “convey a snapshot of the marketplace and do not provide a general conclusion about the levels of BPA in any particular brand or type of product tested”. Levels in the same product purchased at different types or places or in other brands of similar foods might differ from CU test results, it said.

The levels of BPA detected in canned foods by the CU study ranged from 0.3 parts per billion (ppb) to 191ppb. This highest level was detected in canned Del Monte Fresh Cut Green Beans Blue Lake with the lowest finding for this product less than a fifth of that at 35.9 ppb. Progresso Vegetable Soup BPA levels ranged from 67 to 134 ppb, while Campbell’s Condensed Chicken Noodle Soup had BPA levels ranging from 54.5 to 102 ppb, said the study.

In a letter to Dr Margaret Hamburg, Commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) raised concerns that based on average levels detected, one serving of the Del Monte green beans sample or Progresso soup sample could “easily lead a consumer to exceed the FDA Culmulative Exposure Daily Intake (CEDI) level of 0.185µ/kg-bw/day” – the assumed daily consumption of most people by the US agency. Of more concern, it added, was that one serving of the highest level could expose a small child of 22lbs to a “level that nears or exceeds those that have been shown to cause harm in animal studies published in scientific literature (2.4µ/kg-bw/day).” A full list of the results can be viewed via the following link The CU also claimed that BPA was found in some products packaged in cans that did not use epoxy-based liners, “suggesting BPA was not used”.

One such product, “Vital Choice’s tuna in ‘BPA-free’ cans, was found to contain an average of 20 ppb of BPA and those of Eden Baked Beans in “BPA-free” cans averaged 1 ppb BPA”, said the consumer body. The CU said a large body of research demonstrated cause for concern over BPA and called on the FDA to ban use of the chemical in food and beverage contact materials. The results of a FDA review into the safety of the chemical is due to be delivered by the end of the month.

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