Concern over canned foods
Our tests find wide range of Bisphenol A in soups, juice, and more
By Consumer Reports
The chemical Bisphenol A, which has been used for years in clear plastic bottles and food-can liners, has been restricted in Canada and some U.S. states and municipalities because of potential health effects. The Food and Drug Administration will soon decide what it considers a safe level of exposure to Bisphenol A (BPA), which some studies have linked to reproductive abnormalities and a heightened risk of breast and prostate cancers, diabetes, and heart disease.
Now Consumer Reports’ latest tests of canned foods, including soups, juice, tuna, and green beans, have found that almost all of the 19 name-brand foods we tested contain some BPA. The canned organic foods we tested did not always have lower BPA levels than nonorganic brands of similar foods analyzed. We even found the chemical in some products in cans that were labeled “BPA-free.”
The debate revolves around just what is a safe level of the chemical to ingest and whether it should be in contact with food. Federal guidelines currently put the daily upper limit of safe exposure at 50 micrograms of BPA per kilogram of body weight. But that level is based on experiments done in the 1980s rather than hundreds of more recent animal and laboratory studies indicating serious health risks could result from much lower doses of BPA.
Deciding on a Safe Level
Several animal studies show adverse effects, such as abnormal reproductive development, at exposures of 2.4 micrograms of BPA per kilogram of body weight per day. Our food-safety scientists recommend limiting daily exposure to one-thousandth of that level, or 0.0024 micrograms per kilogram of body weight, following established practices to ensure an adequate margin of safety.
An FDA special scientific advisory panel reported in late 2008 that the agency’s basis for setting safety standards to protect consumers was inadequate and should be re-evaluated. A congressional subcommittee determined in 2009 that the agency relied too heavily on studies sponsored by the American Plastics Council. BPA, a building block of plastics, is a component of epoxy resin used in cans and packaging. “The FDA’s reliance on industry studies in determining BPA’s safety must be re-evaluated in light of clear signs industry is willing to mislead the American people on this public-health issue,” said Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Mich., chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee. Bills are pending in Congress that would ban the use of BPA in all food and beverage containers.
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