What's in Your Food?

Frozen food dinner

The December 2009 issue of Consumer Reports Magazine revealed some frightening news about bisphenol A, better known as BPA, that has some people reeling.

Apparently, the chemical, a synthetic estrogen that countless U.S. factories use in everything from plastic bottles to cans, has been found in more in the urine of 92% of Americans. Even scarier is the fact that studies have linked the chemical to everything from breast cancer to obesity, from attention deficit disorder to genital abnormalities in boys and girls alike.

It’s also been found in our food!

Consumer Reports Magazine tested an assortment of canned foods and found BPA in almost all of them. Relatively high levels turned up in such staple foods as Progresso vegetable soup, Campbell’s condensed chicken noodle soup, and Del Monte Blue Lake cut green beans.

The magazine also says it found BPA in the canned liquid version of Similac Advance infant formula and in canned Nestlé Juicy Juice. Experts say the BPA likely came from an interior coating used in many cans.

Should we be worried?

The chemical industry doesn’t think so. Representatives from the American Chemistry Council point to a new study indicating that BPA exposure did not cause abnormalities in the reproductive health of rats. Hundreds of other studies demonstrate the contrary, though, including some cited by the Breast Cancer Fund in their efforts to ban the chemical from food and beverage containers.

Facts about BPA

  1. Bisphenol-A is a chemical compound used as a building block of several polymers and polycarbonates that in turn are found in plastic bottles and cans. This means we’re all exposed to tiny amounts of the stuff through the canned juices we drink, the milk we give babies (yes, it’s in baby bottles!), that can of soda you’re sipping on while you reading this.
  2. Bottling companies started using the chemical in the 1960’s to line the insides of cans in order to extend shelf life.
  3. Every year, 7 billion pounds of BPA are produced, for use in food packaging, PVC water pipes, electronics, and more. In 2008, more than 22 billion cans for food and more than 100 billion cans for beer and soft drinks were produced with BPA.
  4. BPA mimics estrogen, binding to the same receptors throughout the human body as natural female hormones. The chemical leaches from plastics and resins when they are exposed to hard use or high temperatures (as in microwaves or dishwashers). That’s how it gets into our food and into our bodies when we ingest it.
  5. There have been safety concerns about BPA for decades, especially for babies who ingest a proportionally larger amount due to their small size. Potential problems include hyperactivity, learning disabilities, brain damage, and immune deficiencies.
  6. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) calculated that people consume 50 micrograms of BPA per kilogram of body weight every day over the course of a lifetime. Over 40 studies have found adverse health effects in rats given less than one hundredth of that amount!
  7. Hundreds of animal studies have linked BPA consumption in tiny amounts to a host of reproductive problems, brain damage, immune deficiencies, metabolic abnormalities, and behavioral oddities like hyperactivity, learning deficits and reduced maternal willingness to nurse offspring.
  8. In 2008, Canada added BPA to its list of toxic substances and plans are to ban BPA from all baby bottles.
  9. The FDA has gone back and forth on BPA safety.
  • In August 2008 it deemed BPA safe.
  • Just months later in December 2008, the FDA’s own advisory board accused the FDA of weighing 2 industry-backed studies much more heavily than the hundreds of other independent studies. The FDA defended its actions by insisting that these other studies did not meet the FDA’s guidelines for determining safety for human consumption and did not provide raw data.
  • In March 2009, six manufacturers announced that they would voluntarily stop manufacturing bottles with BPA: Playtex Products, Gerber, Evenflo, Avent America, Dr. Brown and Disney First Years.
  • In May 2009, Chicago became the first city to ban sales of baby bottles and sippy cups with BPA. Denmark became the first European country to do the same.

    Think you’re safe? In 2004, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) found traces of BPA in nearly all of the urine samples it collected as part of an effort to gauge the prevalence of various chemicals in the human body!

    What can you do?

    Here are some tips on how to reduce your family’s BPA intake:

    1. Tell your friends and family with a baby or toddler to purchase only BPA-free plastic bottles, and to microwave the formula in a glass bottle, NOT in the baby bottle.
    2. Opt for fresh or frozen products instead of the canned stuff.
    3. Drink tap water instead of bottled water.

    Sources:

    Consumer Reports Magazine
    Fooducate.com
    Scientific American