Over the past few years scientists have linked an estrogen-like chemical bisphenol-A (BPA) in canned foods to possible health risks. The solution could cost the food insustry only a few cents per product to resolve, but still few respond, which leaves parents concerned. A September 2011 study conducted by the Breast Cancer Fund showed that Campbell’s Disney Princess and Toy Story Soups contained the highest levels of BPA among 12 food items tested. Another study shows that the timing of exposure may post the biggest risk for girls. In a study released this week in Pediatrics young girls exposed to BPA in the womb showed a greater risk for depression and anxiety by age 3. The study is significant because it links the timing of exposure to behavioral problems.
The Pediatrics study and the Breast Cancer Fund researchers are concerned because BPA may be causing health issues even before the child is born and specifically from brands that are marketed to children. And, since Campbells’ brands support school education funding through Labels For Education, parents and teachers may be unknowingly exposing children to unwanted BPA exposure in the name of funding school programs.
The Breast Cancer Fund researchers concluded that one serving may not pose a risk, but “repeated and re-exposure to BPA from cans marketed to kids is a bigger concern.” The Breast Cancer Fund study found that BPA levels ranged from 10pbb to 148ppb in the 12 products tested. Disney Princess Cool Shapes Pasta with Chicken and Chicken Broth BPA levels ranged from 80-148ppb and Toy Story Fun Shapes, Shaped Pasta with Chicken in Chicken Broth tested at 71-90ppb. The test results showed the following BPA levels:
- Campbell’s Disney Princess Cool Shapes, Shaped Pasta with Chicken in Chicken Broth, 114 ppb
- Campbell’s Toy Story Fun Shapes, Shaped Pasta with Chicken in Chicken Broth, 81 ppb
- Earth’s Best Organic Elmo Noodlemania Soup, USDA Organic, 38 ppb
- Annie’s Homegrown Cheesy Ravioli, USDA Organic, 31 ppb
- Chef Boyardee Whole Grain Pasta, Mini ABC’s & 123’s with Meatballs, 20 ppb
- Campbell’s Spaghettios with Meatballs, 13 ppb
The most well-known source of BPA include plastic beverage and baby bottles and canned-food linings, but it is also in lesser-known items like medical equipment, dental sealants and even paper receipts from retail stores.
There is such a thing as a BPA-free can lining. According to organic company Eden Foods it costs canned-food companies 2.2 cents more per can to switch to a safer lining, yet only a few food companies have opted for a safer can (see the list below). Eden Foods has been using BPA-free linings for its bean products since 1999 and has recently added 6 more foods to the same can type. Eden uses a vegetable-resin lining developed by Colorado-based Ball Corp., but FDA has not approved this can lining for acidic foods like tomatoes or fruits.
The American Chemical Council said “study released in Pediatrics has significant shortcomings in study design and the conclusions are of unknown relevance to public health. The researchers themselves acknowledge that it had statistical deficiencies, including its small sample size and the potential for the results being due to chance alone.”
The ACC response may do little to relieve parents and expectant mothers worry about exposure to BPA. Advocacy groups like Consumer Reports have long cited that exposure levels of 50ppb (parts per billion), set decades ago for adults, are no longer relevant to today’s exposure levels, especially with children who metabolize foods differently than adults.
The National Toxicology Institute along with FDA are studying the effects of BPA, but that leaves parents in a quandary. There are a few small changes one can make to reduce exposure in children. Canned baby formula may contain BPA, so powdered formula is a safer option. Tetra-Paks for tomatoes and some beverages are also BPA-free.
Here are the food companies that have begun using a BPA-free can linings, BPA-free plastic and Tetra-Paks for some brands (they are available at most Colorado grocers and specialty stores):
- Eden Organic Foods Beans, Rice and Beans
- Vital Choice Tuna
- Wild Planet Tuna
- Pomi-Tetra Pack Tomatoes
- O.N.E. Tetra-pack Coconut Water
- Nalgen and Camelback products are BPA free
- Trader Joe’s* canned corn, canned beans, canned fish, canned poultry, canned beef
*Not available in Colorado