Why it Matters
Given their convenience, many parents see canned foods as healthy alternatives to junk food for their children. More than half of American families say they eat canned foods, and the global canned food market is expected to grow. Unfortunately, studies have shown that exposure to the chemical bisphenol A, known as BPA, came from the commonly found coating on the inside of many food cans migrating into can contents during processing. Canned food in the past has been identified as the “primary source” of exposure to BPA. CEH, in coalition with many other organizations, has convinced food companies that they need to find safer ways to make cans. In our most recent survey only 4% of the cans we purchased from major grocery chains and dollar store chains were lined with BPA-containing coatings.
BPA exposure can disrupt the body’s natural hormones and cause serious health problems. Hormone-altering substances such as BPA – also called endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) – can threaten our health even at extremely small doses. Scientists say that tiny amounts of EDCs can affect the body, especially when people are exposed at critical developmental stages, such as during fetal development or puberty. Pregnant women and the developing fetus, children and teens may be most at risk from exposures to BPA from canned foods.
These companies have known for years that BPA is a serious health threat, yet it took focused pressure to convince companies that canned food should not contain this dangerous chemical. Americans deserve safe food for their children and families. We applaud grocery retailers and dollar stores for heeding our call to end this health threat and develop safer alternatives for canned foods.
What We’re Doing
In California, state scientists in 2015 unanimously agreed that BPA should be added to the state’s list of chemicals known to cause birth defects. Normally this listing would require companies to warn consumers when canned foods pose a risk of BPA exposure, usually through their product labeling. However, after food industry lobbying, the state exempted canned foods from the warning law until the end of 2017. In response, CEH sprang into action by filing a legal petition to the California Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC), demanding that the Safer Consumer Products program regulate BPA in canned food and beverages.
In May of 2017, despite the well-documented health hazards and years of scientific warnings, CEH released a report, “Kicking the Can? Major retailers still selling canned food with BPA,” showing that nearly 40 percent of the more than 250 canned foods tested from four large national retail chains – Kroger, Albertsons, Dollar Tree, and 99 Cents Only – were using BPA-containing linings. Additionally, CEH discovered that just 3 of the 71 cans testing positive for BPA were listed in a state database that is intended to list canned foods that contain BPA.
Just a month later, we tested canned foods from certain ethnic groceries and found they have a much higher risk of exposure to BPA than other shoppers. The new CEH testing showed that more than 90% (71 of 78) of cans purchased from these groceries contain the dangerous chemical. Clearly, when the state exempted canned foods from the warning rules about BPA, they utterly failed to consider the health risks to these communities and others who shop at these stores.
In 2019 we repurchased many of the BPA-containing cans our 2017 report had identified. We found that 95% were free of BPA linings. CEH continues to call on retailers to commit to clear timelines for a transition to safer canned foods. Food and can companies should be investing in the development of the safest possible lining materials.
What You Can Do
Don’t hesitate to ask your store about BPA-free canned foods and let them know that you prefer to purchase BPA-free products.
CEH Report: Kicking the Can? Major retailers still selling canned food with BPA
CEH Op-Ed: Chemical in many canned foods poses risk, and CA consumers are left in the dark
CEH Press Release: Nationwide Testing Shows Many Canned Foods Still Contain Chemical Linked to Cancer, Birth Defects
CEH Press Release: Statewide Testing Finds More than 90% of Canned Foods From Ethnic Groceries Contain the Toxic Chemical BPA
CEH In the News: California pulls back on BPA warnings, angering advocates
CEH In the News: Study says higher risk of BPA in canned goods from Asian food stores