Food cans sold by retailers in the U.S. and Canada are still frequently laced with the toxic chemical bisphenol A or BPA, a new report from six nonprofit groups has revealed.
BPA, an endocrine disruptor, negatively affects hormone systems in the body and contributes to a host of diseases, including breast cancer, prostate cancer, type 2 diabetes, infertility, asthma, obesity, and attention deficit disorder.
In the survey of 192 food cans from major retailers, a staggering 86 percent or 18 out of 21 cans purchased in Canada contained BPA in their interior linings and lids.
While the company recently proclaimed significant headway in transitioning away from the chemical, 100 percent of Campbell’s products tested – or 15 of 15 cans – showed traces of BPA-based epoxy.
Campbell’s recently announced they will eliminate BPA in North American cans by mid- 2017. This announcement, argued the study authors, left out crucial details such as the safety of their BPA alternatives.
The report also warned that major brands and retailers could however be replacing BPA with “regrettable substitutes.” For instance, 18 percent of private-label foods along with 36 percent of national brands were lined with a PVC-derived copolymer, made from the known carcinogen vinyl chloride.
Janet Nudelman – program and policy director of the Breast Cancer Fund, one of the survey sponsors – called for Campbell’s and other major brands to get BPA out of food can linings now and yet be transparent in the identity and safety of their alternatives.
“Only then will consumers be protected from the toxic effects of this hormonally active chemical and the likelihood of exposure to equally toxic alternatives,” she says.
BPA is used for making polycarbonate plastics. It can be found in coatings of food and drinks, aimed at preventing spoilage and contamination. As a precautionary measure, however, Health Canada and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration have already banned BPA from use in baby bottles and sippy cups.
Health Canada concluded in 2014 that BPA exposure through food packaging will not pose a health risk even to newborns and babies. This new report, however, maintained that exposure to even parts per trillion raises the risk of conditions such as breast cancer and behavioral changes like attention deficit disorder.
The groups recommended setting a time frame for phasing out BPA and switching to safe substitutes, as well as labeling BPA and its alternatives in food can linings. They also called for public disclosure of these alternatives’ safety data.
Jose Bravo of the Campaign for Healthier Solutions mourned the lack of access of some American families to fresh produce, which leaves them with the option of buying canned food lined with the hormone-mimicking chemical.
“These communities, people of color and low-income families are already exposed to toxic chemicals more frequently and at higher levels than the average American,” he says.