Food for Thought
A collaborative study by the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future and the Stanford Prevention Research Center has shown that eating canned food increases exposure to Bisphenol A (BPA), a chemical linked to diabetes, cardiovascular disease and hyperactivity in children. The research, published in the October 2016 issue of Environmental Research, evaluated more than 6,000 people and highlighted specific canned foods linked to higher levels of the chemical.
BPA is a compound used to make resins that coat the inside of food cans and jar lids. The amount of BPA contamination varies among cans, the researchers found. “I could eat three cans of peaches, and you could eat one can of cream of mushroom soup and have a greater exposure to BPA,” said lead author Jennifer Hartle, PhD, who at the time of the study was a 2013 Center for a Livable Future–Lerner Fellow and postdoctoral researcher at Stanford University.
The research team found that canned food was associated with higher urinary BPA concentrations, and the more canned food participants consumed, the higher their BPA levels were. This was true in both children and adults, with the association being even stronger in children.
However, as noted by co-author and CLF founder Robert Lawrence, this doesn’t mean consumers should throw out the baby with the bath water. “We’ve been working hard to get consumers to eat the right foods—fruits and vegetables, and quality protein from plants, nuts and lean cuts of meat—and for some, these come in the form of canned foods. While there is a link to increased urinary BPA measurements, they are below the U.S. Food and Drug Administration exposure guidelines, and we wouldn’t want anyone to stop eating these foods because of our findings,” he explained. “I am a strong advocate for getting more fresh fruits and vegetables on dinner plates and in school lunches. The real question is how we move away from packaged foods. And if we have to use them, what safer alternatives are there to BPA and its sister chemicals?”
In a statement published by CNN, Lauren Sucher, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, said, “The FDA has performed extensive research and reviewed hundreds of studies about BPA’s safety, and has determined that current authorized uses of BPA in food packaging are safe. The FDA continues to monitor literature and research on BPA.”