Family of N

BPA: Forget bottles and toys; let’s talk cans

Posted in Health by Laura on December 3, 2008

You’ve heard of it by now: BPA, the evil endocrine disruptor (that means it mimics human hormones) hiding in baby teethers, waiting to leech into an unsuspecting child whose only crime was that he wanted to soothe his poor gums. Research is increasingly pointing to a connection between BPA and health problems, especially in the young but also in adults. The kinds of mal-effects turning up in this research are just plain scary: exposure during gestation and childhood may be linked to reproductive abnormalities and certain cancers. Adults with higher concentrations of BPA in their systems have more heart and liver problems and more incidences of diabetes, and cancer treatments don’t work as well on them.

Bottle- and toy-makers are starting to catch on — parents want BPA out of everything that touches their baby’s food or mouth, and rightly so. As a result, consumers have no problem finding BPA-free bottles, toys, teethers, breast pumps, and other products for children. (Or if you do, you shouldn’t. The Soft Landing is a great resource if you don’t know where to look.)

What concerns me, though, is that canned food contains so much more BPA than a baby can get from any of those products, and manufacturers don’t know how to stop using it. When asked about whether their canned foods have BPA linings, most companies answer that it’s in there, and it isn’t going away anytime soon. A number of these companies say they are researching alternative coatings, but with the amount of BPA in canned foods being over the safe level in one out of ten cans, and one out of every three cans of infant formula, I wish they’d research a little harder.

Actually, I wish they would use some of the options they already have. Courtesy the Z Report on BPA in Infant Formulas:

There are a variety of obvious alternatives to the use of BPA in packaging, none of which industry representatives will admit to having explored. A few options we’d recommend for concentrated [infant] formula, currently the area of greatest concern:

  • Line cans with oleoresinous C-enamel. This corn-based sealant has been used in Eden Foods’ canned beans. C-enamel is not a suitable coating for use with highly acidic foods (even Eden, as we learned in the course of this investigation, uses the industry standard BPA-containing epoxy for their canned tomatoes), but infant formula seems unlikely to pose such a problem.
  • Line cans with an alternative epoxy. It seems highly unlikely that there is no safer substance with which a coating can be produced to line cans. More likely, in our view, is that companies have not yet investigated their options.
  • Design a plastic container for dispensing concentrated formula. Use the material Similac uses for their RTF, with a wide-mouth packaging design.
  • Use a carton with a BPA-free lining and a cap pour spout, like that used for Silk soymilk.

We didn’t ever use canned foods that much, just beans and tomatoes. Switching to dried beans wasn’t hard; it saved us money and all it took was a little extra soaking and cooking time. But my tomatoes… I do miss those tomatoes. Fresh ones are expensive, and on top of that, they’re inconvenient. I used to be able to pop the top off a can of tomatoes, pour them in the blender with a little hot pepper, cilantro, and lime juice, and call it salsa. I could make a simple marinara sauce from tomatoes, garlic, and herbs in 30 minutes. *sigh* Those were the days.

So here’s my plea to the industries that produce the BPA epoxy resins, the cans lined with them, and the canned foods themselves: please find a good alternative coating — one that works for tomatoes — soon! Otherwise, to the food producers, would you mind selling frozen tomatoes in my area? I’ve heard of grocery stores that carry them, but alas, none of the ones near me do.

4 Responses

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  1. Harmony said, on December 3, 2008 at 4:48 pm

    I *know* I’ve seen frozen tomatoes at a grocery store near me, but I can’t seem to find them anymore. 😦 We used up the last of our frozen garden tomatoes yesterday, so I’ve got to find something else to suffice for the next 6 months before tomatoes will be in season again. This is Bad News, too, because my husband loves his tomatoes. The cost of his favorite foods has essentially tripled (at least) just because of the cost of fresh tomatoes. I would even settle for buying frozen stewed tomatoes, but it seems Green Giant and Birdseye don’t carry them, and they’re the only big frozen food distributors I can think of.

    BTW, does WordPress have a way to subscribe to comments?

  2. Laura said, on December 3, 2008 at 5:06 pm

    Harmony, you can subscribe to an RSS feed for comments (no e-mail subscription like Blogger, AFAIK). Look on the right-hand column, under “Meta.”

    The Professor and I make all our spaghetti, lasagna, etc. dishes with jarred pasta sauce now. Only the lids have BPA, so I figure it’s not going to leach throughout the whole jar. Sometimes I’ll liven a jar up with just one or two fresh tomatoes, as a compromise. I also find a clove of garlic, a pinch of well-chosen herbs, and a splash of milk go a long way in making it taste more homemade.

    I saw jarred plain tomatoes and jarred tomato paste at My Organic Market. I think you may be able to find some from Whole Foods or whatever other natural food stores you have down there. They may still be cheaper than fresh.

    Harmony has already seen this, but for any of my other readers (haha, maybe in a few weeks someone besides family will find my blog!) — even if you don’t have room in your freezer and don’t have a canner, you can still save your homegrown tomatoes till winter.

  3. Harmony said, on December 5, 2008 at 10:15 am

    Okay, a couple of things:

    1) DH has decided that homemade marinara sauce is 100x better than jarred pasta sauce. So, while jarred sauce is a LOT cheaper, when I am constantly getting comments about how it would be much better with my homemade sauce. It’s a great ego stroke, but it definitely brings up the issue of cost. And I feel like he doesn’t really enjoy the meal as much because it’s made with inferior sauce.

    2) If you want more readers to your blog, you need to do two things. First, comment on other people’s blog and be sure to include the link to your webpage. Second, participate in things like Frugal Friday, Kitchen Tip Tuesday, or Works for me Wednesday. Almost all of our readers came to our blog from a link on someone else’s blog.

  4. Laura said, on December 5, 2008 at 10:38 am

    I do have some posts in the cue for Mr. Linky events — Menu Plan Monday, Kitchen Tip Tuesday, and Frugal Friday right now. I plan to spread them out, though, since over Christmas I may have a few weeks where I’m not often on a computer. Wouldn’t want to attract a bunch of readers and then have nothing for them to read for three weeks!

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