BPA in canned foods

We found alarming levels of BPA in a range of canned foods – including baby foods.
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03.What is the industry doing?

Simplot (manufacturer of Edgell and John West) told CHOICE they are sensitive to consumer concerns and have cans with BPA-free linings under test.

In response to CHOICE’s test results, Heinz has announced it will move to BPA-free packaging for baby food products. A company spokesman said, “While we believe there is no risk to consumers, we are keen to allay any concern and so have opted to remove BPA from all baby food packaging.”

In the UK, Heinz has also committed to moving to alternatives – and for its beans, pasta and many soups, protective coating is only applied to the can ends.

In Japan, most manufacturers voluntarily changed their can linings in 1998 to reduce or eliminate the use of BPA.

In the US, however, the canning industry is claiming that viable substitutes are not yet available. Sixteen products on test contained less than 10ppb of BPA, and eight of these contained no detectable BPA at all.

So it’s clearly possible for manufacturers to produce canned food with little or no BPA contamination.

CHOICE verdict

We would like to see the food industry take more urgent action to phase out food packaging materials that release toxic chemicals into food. This includes plasticisers such as phthalates, used in some food containers and PVC cling wrap, as well as BPA-based polycarbonate bottles and epoxyresins for lining cans.

While FSANZ is currently surveying the BPA content of a range of Australian processed foods (and expects to report on the findings next month), we would also urge the regulator to be more proactive in protecting Australian consumers.

Safety laws recently put into place by the EU shift the burden of proof to industry, requiring manufacturers to prove their products don’t harm human health or the environment. We believe similar rules should also operate here. As a matter of urgency, CHOICE wants the government to phase out the use of BPA-containing packaging for all baby foods and foods designed for toddlers and young children.

In the meantime, you can reduce (although not necessarily eliminate) exposure to BPA and other risky chemicals by taking the following steps:

  • Choose fresh food whenever possible
  • Consider alternatives to canned food, beverages and juices
  • Use glass or ceramic containers when heating food in microwave ovens.

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