Should You Can the Can? BPA and My Canned Sardines

by Judy Stone-Goldman on May 14, 2012

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BPA canned foods safety concerns

How does eating canned food affect me?

I’m feeling a bit discouraged. It’s all about canned goods.

I can’t ignore the voices of concern that are getting increasingly loud about the chemical Bisphenol A, or BPA. BPA lines the cans we buy (think soup, tuna, black beans), and BPA is found in the blood stream of people who eat canned foods. A Campbell’s soup product made specifically for children had particularly high levels. BPA is being linked to hormonal abnormalities in fish and frogs, and the potential effects on newborns are scary. Naturally the Food and Drug Administration tells us that the research is inconclusive and BPA levels are well below the danger point, but try telling that to the fish.

So do I keep eating canned foods? I have a fair number of canned goods in my routine diet, from canned sardines and salmon to canned beets. As I’ve become more aware of the concerns, I’ve backed away a bit, but I have not made a commitment to giving them up completely, as John Peterson Myers of Environmental Health Sciences has done.

I donated canned goods to the Stamp Out Hunger food drive this past week. Now I’m concerned about the extent to which people using food banks must rely on canned products—just one more way that being low-income puts you at risk for health concerns. There are a few manufacturers that are producing BPA-free cans, including Eden Organics (beans) and Wild Planet (tuna). Unfortunately, these products are so high priced, I am unlikely to buy them frequently for myself, and I don’t see them as a good use of food dollars for food banks. (Let’s face it, is spending $5 for a small can of tuna the best way to make sure everybody gets enough to eat?)

How much is hype? How much is mass hysteria? How much is a real threat? New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof, who often writes about young girls sold as prostitutes and other such humanitarian nightmares, devoted his column to BPA recently. Canada declared BPA toxic and is committed to phasing out BPA in can linings. Even Campbell’s soup has announced it will change its cans (undoubtedly the result of the negative publicity from the soup report). The market for BPA-free baby bottles is booming. Research continues, slowly and with frustrating uncertainties.

If you’ve followed my blog you know I am devoted fresh vegetables, whole foods, and a healthful diet. I’ve always included some canned goods as part of that diet, and I am loathe to give up the convenience and options those foods offer. Sadly, now I must notice, and think, and wonder, every time I pull out the can opener.

Questions for Reflection: Do you eat canned foods? How does the information about BPA affect your choice of these foods? How do you deal with the food safety issues that are increasing concerns?

Writing Prompts: “When it comes to food safety, I tend to ______” (then keep writing); “The news about BPA is important to me because ______” (then keep writing); “In general, I cope with risk factors by ______” (then keep writing).

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{ 28 comments… read them below or add one }

Mandy Webster
Twitter:
May 14, 2012 at 1:54 pm

I do eat canned goods, and I didn’t realize they had BPA in them. I’ve been working on phasing out plastic bottles, and now I have to worry about my canned goods, too? My son and I have both been diagnosed with asthma within the past 2 years, and I can’t help but wonder if there’s something in our environment that’s triggered the problem. It’s so overwhelming trying to figure out what to cut next!

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Judy Stone-Goldman
Twitter:
May 14, 2012 at 5:01 pm

Hi Mandy, This is a dilemma, isn’t it? How much to worry, how much to accept that there are many factors in our environment that are uncertain…Yes, BPA is an issue with plastics as well, and I avoid heating plastic containers or storing hot food in them. It’s hard to find a balance between making a good effort and driving ourselves crazy! Thanks for the comment–nice to “meet you” here.

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Vicki Dello Joio
Twitter:
May 14, 2012 at 4:00 pm

oi, the beans, the beans. That is what seems hardest to me to give up and start the process of soaking and slow cooking. I’ve only recently added more beans to my diet as a way of increasing metabolic function, so I won’t give them up. When I read that Canada has banned BPA, I think I may need to add this to a long list of things to do. Now I”M worried, sigh

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Judy Stone-Goldman
Twitter:
May 14, 2012 at 5:04 pm

Vicki, I don’t want us all to just curl up into worry…I think we make choices. I ate beans from cans for a long time and only recently began soaking and cooking them. We all have certain things we just need to do. I’m not giving up my canned sardines or salmon! (Of course, there’s the whole other issue of sustainability, wildlife, etc.!! Double oy vey!) The companies are definitely feeling the pressure, so research into alternatives will increase. Of course, who knows about the substitutes and whether they’ll be safe. My understanding is that acidic foods are a huge barrier, that no one has figured out how to eliminate BPA from the canned tomato products (happily, not a product I use). So this is no small matter for science. I’d say keep eating your beans–we do better by eating well and maintaining health than going crazy immediately.

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sue bock
Twitter:
May 14, 2012 at 9:41 pm

I had forgotten about the BPA in the canned foods. I don’t eat a lot of canned foods, thank goodness. I am aware of them in bottles and stay away from plastics that contain BPA. Keep up your campaign and keeping us in the loop. Thanks

Sue Bock
http://couragetoadventurecoaching.wordpress.com

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Judy Stone-Goldman
Twitter:
May 15, 2012 at 8:01 am

Hi Sue, You are lucky you don’t have to think too much about the canned goods. Of course you are correct about the BPA and plastics–really, there are so many places to be on the lookout for it. I do think people’s awareness is increasing and it will make a difference in policy down the road.

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Victor Barrel May 15, 2012 at 2:31 am

Canned foods just ain’t my thing. I prefer eating fresh foods that still have all the nutritional components in them.

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Imogen Ragone
Twitter:
May 15, 2012 at 8:11 am

Oh my! I really don’t eat many canned goods, but beans, yes! And the occasional tuna, and sometimes tomatoes for sauces… Thanks for putting this on the radar (I was only aware of the problem in plastics), though I’m not really sure what I’m going to do about it. But I do prefer to be aware and informed, without driving myself crazy… (!)

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Rebecca Parre
Twitter:
May 15, 2012 at 8:22 am

Great blog post Judy, got me thinking about how Grandma canned everything in a Mason jar. Back to basics?

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Judy Stone-Goldman
Twitter:
May 15, 2012 at 9:32 am

Hi Rebecca, Yes, canning is both old fashioned and modern! People who are purists are worried because of the tin lid of the mason jar, which also has BPA. But I would see that as a big step forward. Thanks for commenting.

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hcg pellets vs drops May 15, 2012 at 8:33 am

I don`t want to eat canned foods because is not healthy for our body and it not delicious in my opinion.

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Katherine
Twitter:
May 15, 2012 at 9:00 am

Hello, Thank you. My partner uses the words “getting my boundaries” when he means “getting his bearings.” I’m trying to explain to him the big difference. Searching “boundaries” I found your blog! Yes, I’m interested in the “boundaries” too — with my partner as well. We’ll get this bearings/ boundary thing right yet!

But …. going to HOME I found this post too. Health is my Big One. My passion. How I try to live and dedicate my life. Thanks for informative and reflective post. I do eat some canned food too unfortunately — like canned salmon as you mention. I think a little canned wild Alaskan salmon is OK, other things being equal (as in not too many other canned goods). My opinion and take.

The main way I make a LIVING is buy and sell used books, textbooks, medical and science books on http://www.amazon.com/shops/EditWrite.

But right now I am on a mission to get 1000 new qualified subscribers to my LIST at my blog Sign-In. I’m going to write an ezine on Health. I study with Steven Acuff http://www.stevenacuff.com.

I’ll talk about gluten, getting alkaline, glycation, healing foods — coconut oil, seaweed, etc. And soon I’ll write a little book and give it away. Just remind me, so you can one later.

The ebook will either cover how I earn an extra $1000 a month selling on Amazon; or how to heal pain or become an oil burner instead of a sugar burner or something like that.

I ask any readers, and Judy — and thank you Judy for hearing me out — if you all will help another woman internet marketer, reflective writer (another topic I totally agree on), and totally health conscious person — SIGN UP at my blog http://www.katherinekay.com to my list. I just finally learned (or did it) how to get the script up on my WordPress site for opt-in box.

I gave myself a new assignment to write 5000 words a day. It is the most therapeutic thing I think I’ve ever done. I’m learning more about myself than I’ve known in a long time.

Because it does become stream of thought writing — because 5000 words is a lot. And I don’t have that many writing projects — or the time to dedicate to structured writing or the plans and strategy of what I need to write.

So I write down all my “To Do’s” “grocery lists” “feelings” “plans” “dreams” “work plans” “Writing ideas” — and I get so much done on paper. It’s incredible!!

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Judy Stone-Goldman
Twitter:
May 15, 2012 at 9:36 am

Hi Katherine, Sounds like we have a lot in common! Good luck with that goal of 5000 words a day–definitely a lot of words. Love how you include your To Do lists (which I am a fanatic about – they keep me on track) and miscellaneous notes. I’ll be checking out your site. I really benefit from understanding food, health, nutrition, and how it all affects me. Thanks for such an enthusiastic comment!

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Cheryl McDonald
Twitter:
May 15, 2012 at 9:30 am

I eat very little canned food, but beans, tomato sauces and tuna, I do eat. I have been wondering about whether to worry about the BPA, guess more diet changes are needed. I need to use those mason jars in my shed and learn more about canning. Do cooked beans freeze well? Anybody know?

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Judy Stone-Goldman
Twitter:
May 15, 2012 at 9:40 am

Cheryl, Cooked beans freeze extremely well, so that’s encouraging. Certainly soaking and then cooking beans takes time, so no one wants to do it often. But you can cook, package, and freeze. I’ve been freezing cooked garbanzo beans, and I’ve noticed they can dry out a bit, so I make sure not to overcook them. Home canning/preserving with Mason jars is a great idea (nothing I’ve ever done), although I’ll point out, as I did on another comment, that purists in the BPA dialogue are worried about the tin lids, which contain BPA. Still – it’s got to be better, I would think, because the lid is a much smaller area. Good luck as you think about this!

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Susan Berland
Twitter:
May 15, 2012 at 3:54 pm

I knew about BPA in water bottles and baby bottles but had no idea it was in canned foods. I eat very little in the way of canned foods but do eat some. On occasion I use canned salmon in a salad and canned tomatoes in cooking. It’s clearly for convenience and the fact that I really don’t like to cook! I hate it when even eating gets scary.

Susan Berland

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Judy Stone-Goldman
Twitter:
May 15, 2012 at 8:10 pm

Susan, I hate it, too. But I don’t think I’ll aim for perfection here. I’m grateful to be learning and adjusting–and that I don’t have infants or children to worry about (I think that’s where it really matters…)

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Julieanne Case
Twitter:
May 15, 2012 at 7:13 pm

I’ve known about this for a long time. My husband, bless him from head to toes, has always been a frustrated farmers. Canned tomatoes are another no-no because the tomatoes pull the toxins out from the lining. He has planted tomatoes almost every year and we have processed them and frozen them in our freezer for years. I have rarely bought canned tomatoes and being Italian, tomato puree is a staple. When I learned about the cans and also microwave popcorn, I have used them sparingly. Microwave popcorn makes me get cold sores so I don’t bother with it anymore and rarely microwave now either. I buy dried beans and make soup with them and then freeze them in bpa free containers. Luckily I learned that Tupperware has always been bpa free. So I avoid but didn’t know about the canned tuna. Again I rarely use them. However we have used the canned chicken at Trader Joe’s and I ‘ll have to check that now.

Julieanne Case
Always from the heart!

Reconnecting you to your Original Blueprint, Your Essence, Your Joy| Healing you from the Inside Out |Reconnective Healing | The Reconnection| Reconnective Art |

http://thereconnectivehighway.com

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Judy Stone-Goldman
Twitter:
May 15, 2012 at 8:08 pm

Hi Julieanne, Maybe I should be glad I can’t eat tomatoes and don’t have to face dilemmas! (No, I’ll never be glad about that…I love tomatoes) Happily, I have never cared about popcorn, either. So my struggles are with canned salmon and sardines, staples I rely on. I’m not giving up cans completely, but with awareness we start to make shifts. My guess is TJ’s canned chicken is not BPA free, but I’ll be curious to hear what you learn. (TJ does carry a BPA-free brand of tuna, I believe…)

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Julieanne Case
Twitter:
May 15, 2012 at 10:52 pm

YOu need to be aware of one more aspect. Please be sure you are buying wild salmon. I read something awhile back that said if you eat farmed salmon (canned or fresh), it will take 7 months to rid your body of the toxins you ingest from the farmed salmon. So besides getting salmon in non-bpa, be sure it’s wild. And it is possible to buy fresh sardines. I’ve seen them down here.

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Judy Stone-Goldman
Twitter:
May 16, 2012 at 7:00 am

Julieanne, Yes, this is something we’ve known about for a long time. Haven’t eaten the farm salmon in many, many years. I consider myself fortunate to be living in the Pacific NW, where wild salmon (not canned) is abundant and at a reasonable price. There are sustainability issues with wild salmon as well (whether we are depleting the supplies), but at least the salmon is healthful. The canned salmon I buy is also wild. As for fresh sardines, I haven’t seen those. I’ll have to keep my eyes out for them.

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Brenda Jones
Twitter:
May 16, 2012 at 11:41 pm

It’s difficult to know if this is a mass hysteria thing or a real threat. Right now pediatricians are freaking out about everyone having pertussis vax if you’re going to be around a newborn… except that my doctor who wrote one of the most widely-known vaccine books does not recommend as such. Paranoia? I don’t know. There is a comment above that discusses a toddler with asthma… a somewhat common known side effect of the DTaP vaccine that doctors rarely tell you about. Research is constantly changing and when things involve children, laws and agencies such as CPSC have gone off the deep end at times, and if you ever need a good laugh, read the warnings on children’s products such as exersaucers (they are not to be used a snow discs or flotation devices, in case you thought they were, lol). As for food safety, eggs are good, they’re bad, no whites are ok, no you need yolk… it changes so often I’m not sure what the current status is any more. Not sure I understand your comment regarding BPA and newborns, since I don’t know of any who are eating canned foods and for me, unless their is BPA in my breastmilk, that’s not going to be a concern for, at minimum, the first 6 months of life after which we don’t even do jarred baby foods, but make our own. Baby bottles are never supposed to be microwaved, and most bottles, like you’ve noted, are BPA free. I think there is always need for moderation and heightened concern. But I also know that even if they “prove” that BPA is safe, you can make research say whatever you want it to say. Going outside to get sunlight for VitD can cause cancer. I don’t think anything is safe any more (sadly). I’ve known about the can lining concern and we’ve phased out a lot of our canned goods, but we do still use them on occasion.

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Judy Stone-Goldman
Twitter:
May 17, 2012 at 8:11 am

Hi Brenda, Well, that’s the issue, isn’t it – how much to take, how much to leave. The only thing I would expand upon is that the concern for newborns and infants is from the mother. Babies get exposed in the womb and BPA has been found in umbilical cords. Because infants are both tiny and neurologically sensitive (because growth is so explosive and potential), it is possible they will be more affected. Hormonal disruptions to developing babies (in and out of the womb) should be of concern, I think. Plus infants have a whole lifetime ahead so accumulation will be greater. (In fact, although I don’t know if it’s from anything related, early onset puberty in girls has raised serious concerns in some areas. Hormonal changes are already here.) We are all fortunate if canned foods are a small part of our diet as we then aren’t part of the experiment.

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Wanda June 5, 2012 at 10:44 am

I do not know about this BPA thing but I am strongly against canned foods! I feel like they loose their taste and the nutrition! What good is such food?

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Adam August 23, 2012 at 10:27 pm

“When it comes to food safety, I tend to ___”try and keep an open mind. It seems that one week when you turn on the news a ‘common food’ is the new cause of cancer while, some mere months later, there’s a good chance they’ll run a report on how the same food has positive health benefits.

As long as I keep everything in balance, I’m not going to get paranoid about things that are beyond my control. Life is already difficult enough to manage as it is. Provided I’m not being blatantly irrisponsible, I won’t lose too much sleep over what my food comes packaged in. I’m aware that this is just my own, humble opinion though :)

ADam

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wolfie January 22, 2013 at 1:10 pm

Not sure how much you have looked into this, but as for sardines, one of the most common brands I have seen, Crown Prince, uses BPA free cans for many of their products, including sardines. I don’t tend to think of Crown Prince as a high end brand. Here’s where you can find more info:
http://www.crownprince.com/bpa-free-cans.htm

Unfortunately it doesn’t say what ELSE is used instead of the BPA, but I’m going to hope for the best for now.

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BILL July 23, 2013 at 2:34 pm

If I were you’s,I wouldn’t worry about BPA amounts.When I was a kid.NOW I am 60,WE rarely knew what cancer was.I say our modern environment causes cancer.everything is being sprayed with pesticides,that we eat,and chances are it is getting into the water we drink,and shower with.All that canned food has cancer addatives,more than BPA.

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Nicola August 15, 2013 at 12:19 pm

Of course this has me going “I knew it.” It’s just that I’m suspicious of virtually All convenience foods/canned products. It’s good to have an actual reason to feel turned off rather than ‘natural prejudice.’ I never heard this before and I thank you lots for it!

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