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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If you've read our pantry packaging materials article, you'll know that all packaging is not created equally. Traditional food packaging like plastic and cans can contain harmful chemicals like BPA, phthalates, or PFAS. That's why we recommend glass containers, cartons (like Tetra Paks), or paper whenever possible. And it's easier than you think to find pantry staples packaged in these materials!

Take beans, for example. Up until recently, you could basically only find beans in cans with BPA lining. Now they come in a wide variety of packaging, including Tetra Paks and glass jars! Our roundup features brands that are widely available; you'll have no problems finding these products in your local supermarket! And most of these brands carry many different kinds of beans! Jovial., for example, has organic chickpeas, cannellini, kidney, and borlotti beans in jars. Your pantry is about to get a major upgrade!

a) 365 Organic/Whole Foods

b) Jack's Quality

c) Inspired Organics

d) Randall

e) MaiaOrganic

f) Jovial


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Having some staples in your pantry is always a good idea for last minute dinners. Plus, the pandemic has made us want to limit grocery trips as much as possible. But a lot of typical pantry items usually come in plastic containers or cans, which can contain chemicals that are harmful to health. Luckily many pantry items now come in improved packaging that's healthier and safer shelf stable!

But wait, what's the problem with cans or plastic? Most canned food is lined with BPA so that the food doesn't react with the metal of the can, but it can end up seeping into the food. That means that when we are eating canned foods, we are also eating low doses of BPA, a chemical that has been linked to numerous health issues like cancers, brain and behavioral problems, reduced sperm production, infertility, diabetes and obesity, and heart disease. Maybe not the best. (Read more about why repeated low doses are no good).

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Food

Tricks to Turning Soup Cartons into a Full Hearty Meal

Skip the canned soups and their BPA linings

It's full-on soup season over here. And while we love eating a warm bowl of soup all cozied up in a giant blanket, we also know that sometimes soup isn't the most filling. Especially if you are trying to be good and opting for a soup that comes in a carton instead of a can that is almost definitely lined with BPA. While we love the soup cartons for many reasons, including the fact that we are sure they are BPA free, we do realize the soups available in cartons aren't as chunky or filling. But, before you write them off or go back to your standby chunky in the can, hear us out. With just a few tricks, you can turn some of those cartons of soups into hearty, delicious, warm, cozy meals. We always have a couple flavors on hand in the pantry for last minute, low prep, and healthy meals. Here are our top picks!

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