Canned Food Controversy

Canned food often have toxic BPA

According to a new study, pregnant women should avoid or limit their intake of canned foods due to chemical content. BPA is a controversial chemical used in the manufacturing of liners for cans used for canned foods and some plastics as well. A recent study, conducted by the National Work Group for safe markets, sought to determine how much bisphenol A (or “BPA”) the average consumer is exposed to.  Analysis of the cans showed that 92% of the canned food samples contained BPA.

BPA was grandfathered in along with 62,000 other chemicals by the FDA in 1963 under the category GRAS, meaning “Generally Regarded as Safe.”  At the time, the FDA assumed that exposure to BPA in small doses wouldn’t cause any harm. Subsequent research has suggested otherwise, however.  Small doses of BPA have been shown to have potentially harmful effects, especially during stages of critical development. In animal studies, BPA has been linked to miscarriage, placental cell death, changes in brain development and developmental and reproductive harm.  Based on these animal studies, many experts have expressed concern that BPA exposure could have similar effects in human, and might be especially dangerous for pregnant women, babies and children.

The study, appropriately coined “No Silver Lining,” selected 20 people from 19 different states and collected canned goods from their homes and grocery store shelves. The investigation examined a variety of products: fish, fruits, vegetables, beans, soups, tomato products, sodas, and milk. The highest levels of BPA were found in a can of Del Monte French Style Green Beans, followed by WalMart-brand sweet peas, then Healthy Choice Old Fashioned Chicken Soup. The lowest levels were found in Starkist tuna fish.

In light of the emergent scientific research and in response to growing public concern, some manufacturers are trying to cut down on the use of BPA in their products. There are numerous ways to preserve food without using BPA in can liners. Eden Foods has already gone BPA-free, and Muir Glen plans to convert to BPA-free cans for their tomatoes this year. From a public policy standpoint, removing BPA from the food supply would require more stringent regulations within the Safe Chemicals Act and widespread development of more non-toxic packaging options. Not all public health officials are responding with a sense of urgency, however. Some are dismissing the concern over BPA as an overreaction, despite a growing body of evidence that suggests the chemical may indeed be harmful.

The bottom line: To be on the safe side, pregnant women should minimize their exposure to BPA by limiting their use of canned foods when possible. Consumption of minimally processed, whole foods is recommended. Fresh fruits and vegetables may be more expensive, but it’s a small price to pay when there’s a baby on the way.

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