The industrial chemical Bisphenol A (or BPA) was/is used widely in a number of consumer products in order to slow metal corrosion in canned foods, garbage cans and other products. While we, as humans, eat very little from garbage cans (presumably) its use in canned foods is a potential danger given the fact that we are generally eating that food.

Study Shines Light On BPAs, Canned Foods
Source: Wikimedia Commons

New study has a look at BPA in canned foods

Published on Wednesday in the journal Environmental Research, a new study not only looked at the level of BPA exposure we have been subjected to in canned foods, but what foods used the highest levels of Bisphenol A in their containers.

Essentially, if you’ve been eating canned meats, fish, or drinking canned beverages, you’re likely alright. At least in comparison, to canned pastas and soups that have high concentrations of BPA, a higher level than canned fruits and vegetables which do contain “safe” levels of BPA.

The study used data from 7,669 people over the age of the six in the United States over the six years ranging from 2003 to 2008. The data was collected by the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, which asked what each participant had eaten in the preceding 24 hour period and tested their urine the same day as they consumed those foods.

“Urinary BPA concentrations are evidence of BPA exposure,” said Jennifer Hartle, postdoctoral research fellow at Stanford University School of Medicine who also was credited as the lead author of this week’s published study.

Not surprisingly, those that ate foods that were canned had considerably higher BPA levels.

“We could see a clear association with canned foods,” she said.

BPA levels vary greatly based on can content

Canned soup appears to be one of the worse culprits. I can’t remember when I last ate something out of a can and this study suggests that if I do remember, it may also be one of the last things I ever eat out of a can. Those in the study that ate canned soup had an average concentration of BPA in their systems that didn’t eat any canned foods on the same day.

Canned pasta showed concentrations of about 70% higher and canned fruits and vegetables 41% higher than non-canned food eaters.

Essentially, a single can of soup was worse than a three cans of (fill in the blank with a fruit or vegetable) but none still ruled the day.

Speaking to the dangers of soup she suggested that it was all about the reheating and subsequent BPA activation.

“A canned soup — which oftentimes is solid and a liquid — usually needs a long heating time to get all of the contents to the same temperature needed to sterilize the food. Many canned beverages (beer, soda, juice) are acidic, so their thermal processing requirement is much different,” she said. “Another factor is that BPA partitions to, or moves into, solids. … Other key factors are the chemical composition of the lining and the fat content of the canned food, as BPA is lipophilic.”

Relax, if you’ve been eating a lot of canned foods, BPA’s effects still need to be studied. But as BPA can both mimic estrogen, and potentially mess with your hormones, you may wish to slow down soon.

That estrogen aping can essentially lead to the reprogramming of cells and while geneticists think they should be allowed, better them than canned foods.

“BPA exposure is associated with many adverse health effects including diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular disease, reproductive development issues, amongst others,” Hartle said.

Cans have BPA and it’s no surprise that lobbyists are being paid handsomely to mitigate that understanding.

“It’s important for consumers to realize that these levels are well below a ‘part per million’ in their food,” said John Rost, chairman of the North American Metal Packaging Alliance following studies by a few NGOs in March of this year. “It is also important to note that recent reviews by FDA, the European Food Safety Authority, Health Canada and other regulatory bodies have shown that current exposures to BPA are safe for all consumers regardless of age or gender.”

U.S. FDA and EPA believes that present levels are safe

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is content with calling 50 micrograms of BPA per kilogram of your weight safe.

Lauren Sucher, a spokeswoman for the Food and Drug Administration, told CNN recently that, “The FDA has performed extensive research and reviewed hundreds of studies about BPA’s safety, and has determined that current authorized uses of BPA in food packaging are safe. The FDA continues to monitor literature and research on BPA.”

However, those same agencies have regulated against its use in children’s products like bottles and sippy cups.

Awareness is good and, well, let’s be honest food in cans just isn’t.