BPA is not being used anymore, but what do we know about the new liners?

Is Canned Food Safe from BPA Now?

Food

When it’s 7pm and you haven’t thought about dinner yet, heating up a can of chunky stew or throwing a can of beans into a cheesy burrito sounds like the best idea ever. By now, you’ve probably heard about BPA in canned foods, but many cans now say “BPA-free” on them. Hurray for that, right?! Every can still needs a thin liner inside so that the food doesn’t corrode the metal from the inside out. So if they are not made with BPA, what are these new liners made of? And does it mean that canned foods are safer to eat now?

What is BPA?

BPA, or bisphenol A, is a chemical that is often used in plastics to make them clear and strong. It is also in epoxy resins that can line water pipes and food cans, and is used in receipt paper (1). Although BPA is the most well-known bisphenol, there are dozens of other bisphenols (often called BPA replacements) out there that are chemically similar to BPA.

BPA is one of the better known endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs). These chemicals look like and act like hormones in the body, which confuse the endocrine system and cause disruption of its normal functions. Since the endocrine system is responsible for metabolism, growth and development, reproduction, and so much more, scientists are finding out more every day about the harmful health effects of EDCs.

BPA in Canned food

Canned food has been around for a long time and since the 1960’s, a thin epoxy lining made with the chemical BPA has been used to protect the inside of the can from corroding. Corroding metal is not good, so a liner is definitely needed in order for canned food to have a good shelf life.

There were two problems though. First, more and more studies piled up showing the harmful endocrine disrupting effects of BPA (2). Secondly, many studies showed that BPA moves from the can lining into the food that is eaten, and that things like acidity, heat, and fat affected how much BPA ended up being in the food (3,4). As a result, there was more and more pressure to remove BPA from can linings.

In fact, reports have shown that there has been a decline in can linings with BPA. The Center for Environmental Health found a huge decline from 2017 to 2019 in canned foods that had BPA linings. In 2019, their tests showed that about 95% of cans tested free of BPA. In fact, the Can Manufactuer’s Institute reports that their industry statistics indicate that more than 95% of all U.S. food can production has transitioned out of BPA to alternative liners (5).

New Canned Food Linings

It’s clear that canned food has largely moved away from BPA, but what are they using in new can linings? That part is less clear. The new linings are made from either acrylic, polyester, non-BPA epoxies, polyvinyl chloride (PVC) copolymers, or olefin polymers. Which one depends on the manufacturer. A 2016 report by several nonprofit groups Buyer Beware: Toxic BPA and regrettable substitutes in the linings of canned food notes that many of these new linings are not great alternatives. PVC is not a great substitute because it’s made from vinyl chloride, a known carcinogen. And many of the acrylic linings include polystyrene (hello styrofoam!), which is also a possible human carcinogen. Adequate testing to ensure that these new linings are safe for food have not been done. And it’s probably no surprise that neither PVC or polystyrene are great for the environment!

Even some of the newest liners, like olefin polymers, which are partially derived from plants, have not been completely studied for safety, many times because their formulation is not publicly available.

Moreover, there are only a couple of companies that specify exactly which BPA free liner they have moved to. So, if you see a can with a BPA free symbol on it, you won’t know what they are using instead.

The Bottom Line on BPA in Canned Food

So the bottom line is that yes, canned foods are largely safe from BPA now thanks to the voices of countless consumers and health advocates. But there is more work to be done to ensure that canned foods linings that are used today are safe. Here’s what you can do to best protect your health:

  1. Write to companies and ask them what linings they use on their canned food products and ask them to show you safety data.
  2. Buy frozen produce and fruits. Food is frozen before it is packaged and frozen food packaging is generally made of safer plastics.
  3. Explore canned food alternatives such as glass jars and Tetra-paks.
  4. Shop the bulk and dry goods bins and make staples like beans from scratch. Freeze small portions in the freezer for easy accessibility in the future.


References

  1. https://www.niehs.nih.gov/health/topics/agents/sya-bpa/index.cfm
  2. Rubin, Beverly S. "Bisphenol A: an endocrine disruptor with widespread exposure and multiple effects." The Journal of steroid biochemistry and molecular biology 127.1-2 (2011): 27-34.
  3. Sungur, Şana, Muaz Köroğlu, and Abdo Özkan. "Determinatıon of bisphenol a migrating from canned food and beverages in markets." Food chemistry 142 (2014): 87-91.
  4. Hartle, Jennifer C., Ana Navas-Acien, and Robert S. Lawrence. "The consumption of canned food and beverages and urinary Bisphenol A concentrations in NHANES 2003–2008." Environmental research 150 (2016): 375-382.
  5. https://www.cancentral.com/content/innovations-foo...
Food

Canned Coffee is Convenient, But What About BPA?

Why they should be a treat instead of part of your daily routine

Now that we're all working from home, it's easy to get bored of our everyday homemade coffee routine. Sometimes we just want something different to wake us up in the morning or even a quick pick me up in the afternoon! That's where canned coffee comes into play. It's quick, convenient, and comes in a ton of flavors. But that convenience might come at a cost; there's been concerns surrounding the use of BPA in the lining of canned products. So, does canned coffee pose a risk to health? We looked at the research to find out.

The Problem With BPA in Cans

BPA, or bisphenol A, is a synthetic chemical that acts like estrogen in our bodies and it has been known to screw with important hormones like testosterone and thyroid hormones. Some of the common health problems associated with BPA include breast cancer, reduced sperm production, obesity, reproductive issues, disruption of brain development and function, and damaging effects to the liver (1). To make matters worse, there is more and more scientific evidence that even very low doses of BPA exposure can be harmful, especially for pregnant women and babies. Low doses of BPA exposure have been tied to abnormal liver function, chronic inflammation of the prostate, cysts on the thyroid and pituitary gland, and many more serious health effects during the early stages of life (5).

Even though BPA is definitely not a chemical we want to be exposed to, it's found basically everywhere, including our food. One common place to find BPA is the internal lining of canned foods or beverages. BPA can help prevent corrosion between the metal and the food or drink inside a can, but over time (or if stored under the wrong conditions like high temperatures), it can start to leach out and get into the food or drink (2). Even cans that say BPA free can have nasty BPA alternatives that have been shown to have similar hormone disrupting effects (7).

Studies have shown that canned soft drinks, beers, and energy drinks all had small traces of BPA in them. Beer was found with the highest concentration of BPA, followed by energy drinks. Soft drinks were found to have the lowest concentration of BPA. In order to find out where BPA in these drinks was coming from, researchers compared the canned drinks to the same drinks packaged in glass bottles. They found very little to no traces of BPA in the glass bottled drinks, which means that the source of BPA in the canned drinks was definitely coming from the cans themselves (2,3,4).

Even if there are only small traces of leachable BPA, it can still be harmful if we are consuming canned products on a regular basis.

Is Canned Coffee Safe?

With the recent increase in popularity of cold brew and other canned coffee drinks, there have not been extensive studies on BPA levels in canned coffee. However, one study of canned coffee drinks in Asia, where they have been popular for longer, did find that BPA was leaching into the coffee from the can. Interestingly, they also found that the more caffeine was in the coffee, the more BPA leached from the can into the drink. Meaning the more caffeine, the more BPA! (4,6) Now before you think you can get away with only drinking decaf canned coffee, keep in mind that caffeine only increases the leaching from the can, but it can still happen without it (6).

Even though the levels of BPA found in canned coffee were relatively small, because BPA is all around us in so many common products, we should try to limit our exposure as much as we can. This means that it's probably okay to drink a canned coffee every once in a while, but best practice is to not drink them every day. But if you're in the middle of a road trip and are desperate for some energy, don't get too stressed about grabbing a canned coffee!

Canned Coffee Alternatives

If you're starting to get worried about what coffee to buy when you're out and about or when you want something more than just plain coffee, don't stress! We thought of some easy and fun alternatives for your canned coffee fix that might make you forget all about it!

  1. Swap out the canned coffee for coffee in a glass bottle or tetrapaks whenever possible.
  2. Find some fun new ways to make coffee at home like using a Chemex or a nice French press!
  3. Go get a coffee at your local coffee shop. Support small businesses if you can!
  4. If you like canned coffee because of the flavors, try making your own caramel or mocha sauce at home. It's pretty easy and it saves money! For something icy and refreshing, we are partial to muddling some fresh mint with some cold brew.


References

vom Saal, F. S., & Vandenberg, L. N. (2021). Update on the Health Effects of Bisphenol A: Overwhelming Evidence of Harm. Endocrinology, 162(bqaa171). https://doi.org/10.1210/endocr/bqaa171 (1)

Cao, X.-L., Corriveau, J., & Popovic, S. (2010). Sources of Low Concentrations of Bisphenol A in Canned Beverage Products. Journal of Food Protection, 73(8), 1548–1551. https://doi.org/10.4315/0362-028X-73.8.1548 (2)

Determination of BPA, BPB, BPF, BADGE and BFDGE in canned energy drinks by molecularly imprinted polymer cleaning up and UPLC with fluorescence detection. (2017). Food Chemistry, 220, 406–412. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.foodchem.2016.10.005 (3)

Kang, J.-H., & Kondo, F. (2002). Bisphenol A migration from cans containing coffee and caffeine. Food Additives and Contaminants, 19(9), 886–890. https://doi.org/10.1080/02652030210147278 (4)

Prins, G. S., Patisaul, H. B., Belcher, S. M., & Vandenberg, L. N. (2019). CLARITY-BPA academic laboratory studies identify consistent low-dose Bisphenol A effects on multiple organ systems. Basic & Clinical Pharmacology & Toxicology, 125(S3), 14–31. https://doi.org/10.1111/bcpt.13125 (5)

Kang, J.-H., & Kondo, F. (2002). Bisphenol A migration from cans containing coffee and caffeine. Food Additives and Contaminants, 19(9), 886–890. https://doi.org/10.1080/02652030210147278 (6)

Pelch, K., Wignall, J. A., Goldstone, A. E., Ross, P. K., Blain, R. B., Shapiro, A. J., Holmgren, S. D., Hsieh, J.-H., Svoboda, D., Auerbach, S. S., Parham, F. M., Masten, S. A., Walker, V., Rooney, A., & Thayer, K. A. (2019). A scoping review of the health and toxicological activity of bisphenol A (BPA) structural analogues and functional alternatives. Toxicology, 424, 152235. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tox.2019.06.006 (7)

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Food

The Pros and Cons of Silicone Cookware

A look into the safety of one of America's most popular cookware materials

Remember when we found out that the BPA in plastics were actually endocrine disruptors that could lead to all sorts of yucky health effects like early onset puberty, mess with our hormones and even cause cancer (1)? Since that news, we've seen an abundance of BPA-free cookware, drink ware and bakeware populating the marketplace. Some are even ditching traditional plastic products altogether. One of the most popular materials among industry and consumers alike is silicone. But have you ever wondered just how safe silicone is? We're breaking it down for you below- the good, the bad, and everything in between so you can make the safest choice!

Five Reasons to Love Silicone

  • Heat stable: Silicone can usually be used up to temperatures of 400(F) and can withstand going from extreme heat to extreme cold (2). This makes it a kid-friendly option, but is also great for busy adults who love to cook and leftovers freeze easily in silicone dishware. And when you're done, the silicone dishware can just be tossed into the dishwasher without any fear of it coming out melted after a high heat wash (2).
  • Flexible: Smash it, drop it, squeeze it, silicone will survive basically anything (except maybe an apocalypse) (2).
  • Degrades into large pieces: Believe it or not, this is actually a good thing! Because silicone products degrade into larger pieces, they are not as readily ingested by marine life, animal life and consequently, by humans as well (4)!
  • Durable: Compared to plastic that can crack, or glass that can shatter, silicone products are a great alternative that last basically forever (hurrah for our budgets!) (2).
  • Healthier than Traditional Non-stick: Non-stick baking pans contain perfluorinated chemicals (PFAS) which although great at being nonstick, are not great for the planet or for humans health.

Five Reasons to be Wary of Silicone

  • Unknown long-term safety: Silicone products are fairly new to the market. Therefore, there have been very few studies conducted on the safety of silicone products and even fewer on the long-term health effects of using silicone products (6).
  • Chemical fillers: Depending on the quality of the silicone product, it may or may not contain chemical fillers (2,4). Generally, the higher the quality of silicone, the less likely it will contain chemical fillers (4).
  • Migration of chemicals into food: Studies have found chemicals in silicone products passing from storage containers, cookware and nursing teats (3,5).
  • Migration of chemicals into air: When silicone products are exposed to high temperatures (think baking), the chemicals in the product can be released into the air (2). The released particles tend to persist in the air and pose a health hazard to the lungs (2).
  • Special recycling process: In order for silicone to be down-cycled, you will need to bring products to special recycling centers (4).

What You Can Do to Keep Yourself Safe (Because Silicone Cookware Really is Awesome!)

  • Look for medical grade: Medical grade silicone should contain little or no chemical fillers (4). By purchasing medical grade silicone, you are ensuring you're getting a product that is as close to 100 percent silicone as possible.
  • Avoid chemical fillers: A quick tip to check for chemicals on a colored product is to pinch the silicone surface (4). If you can see white in the product while pinching, then a chemical filler has been used (4). A pure silicone product shouldn't change color at all (4).
  • Wash before using: Make sure to pre-clean all silicone products before using - this will decrease the amount and likelihood of chemicals getting into the food or air (2).
  • Adhere to maximum temperature: Always look to see what the maximum temperature a silicone product can withstand and don't exceed the temperature (2).

References

  1. https://cehn.org/our-work/eco-healthy-child-care/ehcc-faqs/plastics/
  2. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0160412018318105
  3. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S014294181831047X
  4. https://books.google.com/books?hl=en&lr=&id=T9U5DwAAQBAJ&oi=fnd&pg=PP1&dq=silicone+cookware+toxicity&ots=q_Px2JTjS4&sig=2fNNOFIj0KVLGo3aAKKs0cXjrPs#v=onepage&q=silicone&f=false
  5. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/19440049.2012.684891
  6. https://orbit.dtu.dk/en/publications/siloxanes-in-silicone-products-intended-for-food-contact(e455a3a3-f6af-4d46-8ef5-1f8cc0ab3a3b).html

If you've made it here, you probably already know that bottled water isn't great. Plastic in general can also be tough because of the ever popular BPA and it's sister chemicals. So we found the best 7 glass water bottles that are well reviewed and that you can bring with you everywhere. That assures that even if your plastic water bottle is BPA free, you won't have to worry about BPA replacements.

Glass does tend to be a bit more heavy than stainless steel, but sometimes people complain about stainless steel having a taste or not being as easy to wash. We like how with these glass bottles, you can flavor your water or even drink iced tea in them, throw them in the dishwasher and then put water in them without a nagging smell or taste. Some of these brands have different sizes and colors, so poke around to find a size and look that work for you.

Also, in case you're wondering, it's tough to find glass bottles without plastic lids, but if the water isn't constantly touching the lid, a plastic lid usually isn't something to get too worried about. If you have some old plastic reusable water bottles kicking around (who doesn't!) then check out our advice about how to use them safely.


7 Glass Water Bottles

a) Contigo Purity b) Bkr c) Ello Pure d) Lifefactory with Classic Cap e) Purifyou f) Soma g) Takeya


*Because Health is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program so that when you click through our Amazon links, a percentage of the proceeds from your purchases will go to Because Health. We encourage you to shop locally, but if you do buy online buying through our links will help us continue the critical environmental health education work we do. Our participation does not influence our product recommendations. To read more about how we recommend products, go to our methodology page.

Everyone has their favorite water bottle - a Camelbak with the chewy straw, or a new shiny S'well bottle, or the Hydroflask that keeps your drink icy for days. And, we know that reusable plastic water bottles have some perks- lightweight, see through, indestructible- but they also have one big drawback, the plastic. Plastics, even ones that are BPA free, are often made of chemicals that can seep into water and affect your health. So, that's where this big question comes into play. Do I have to (or should I) ditch my beloved Nalgene with all my stickers from travels throughout the years?

Our answer is - you don't have to pitch it, but it probably shouldn't be your primary bottle either. You can stop reading here and check our our roundup of a dozen glass and stainless steel reusable water bottles if that's enough info for you, or you can keep reading and well give you some tips and nuggets of info on why those tips will make a difference.

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You've finally returned home after seemingly endless train delays, and you're pretty much ready to eat everything in your fridge. Cue: intense music for your raid through the kitchen (I like Mission Impossible). There's nothing in the fridge except some pickles and ketchup, so you settle on a quick and easy microwavable meal that'll get piping hot food in your belly in less than 10 minutes. Trader Joe's Indian anyone? But, before you rip open that cardboard box and nuke the plastic tray, hear us out on why you might want to move that food to a glass container or plate instead.

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