Should You Be Worried About BPA in Your Canned Food?

A new study finds traces of the chemical in nearly 50 varieties tested

First bacon -- now beans? Just when I was getting myself to eat more of the green legumes, I learn canned veggies and other foods may contain dangerous levels of the chemical bisphenol-A (BPA). That’s according to a small study released this week by the National Workgroup for Safe Markets, a coalition of 19 environmental health groups.

BPA is a chemical found in numerous products, from the linings of metal cans to polycarbonate water bottles to printer inks and toners, and has been connected to a wide range of health issues. According to this report, in animals, exposure to low doses of BPA has been linked to cancer, diabetes, heart disease, infertility, developmental and reproductive problems, obesity, and early puberty. Though the FDA still considers low levels of BPA to be safe, they do have some concern about its effects on fetuses, infants and children. They are currently re-examining research on the chemical and, for now, support efforts to reduce one’s exposure.

The study tested 50 canned foods, including brand name fish, fruits, vegetables, beans, soups, tomato products, sodas and milks purchased from retail stores in 19 U.S. states and Canada. The researchers got half the products from volunteers’ pantries, and then bought the exact items from local supermarkets, to determine whether the age of the product made a difference in BPA levels (it did not).

They found BPA had leeched into 92 percent of the foods tested. On average, the products contained 77.36 ppb (parts per billion) of BPA. The highest count went to a can of DelMonte French Style Green Beans, which contained 1,140 ppb, or 138 micrograms, per serving. However, the researchers also pointed out that BPA levels can vary widely even between cans of the same product by the same brand. So avoiding certain types of food or brands isn’t an effective strategy in trying to reduce your BPA exposure.

To put these numbers in perspective, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the maximum acceptable daily dose of BPA should be 50 micrograms per kilogram of body weight. So, some quick math would suggest that a 130-pound woman should top off at 2,950 micrograms a day. For a 25-pound toddler, however, their maximum exposure should be 567 micrograms. And other research cited by the National Workgroup for Safe Markets suggests that as little as 1 microgram per kilogram of body weight could lead to “long-term adverse reproductive and carcinogenic effects” in animals.

So how much should you be worried about canned goods? Until more research is conducted, it’s hard to say for sure. But if everything you eat comes out of a can, you might want to consider cutting back, especially if you’re pregnant or planning on becoming pregnant. Other ways to reduce your BPA exposure: use glass or BPA-free baby bottles; steer clear of plastic food and beverage containers with a No. 7 recycling label; and keep plastic out of the microwave. (An independent test by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel found supposedly BPA-free plastic containers released BPA when microwaved.)

Will you be thinking twice about eating canned foods? Chime in below.

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