BPA, its everywhere you don’t want it to be

This weekend as my friend Melissa was showing me her cool pressure canner and all of the foods she’s canned with it, we started talking about the presence of BPA in most store-bought canned goods. The presence of BPA (bisphenol-A) in canned goods is something I’ve known about for a while, but one of those things I try to ignore because I still buy a fair amount of our food in cans, including all of our beans (black, pinto, Great Northern, kidney, garbanzo, etc.), tomatoes, tuna, salmon and some soups.

After reading this NY Times op-ed piece, Chemicals in Our Food, and Bodies by Nicholas D. Kristof, I’m rethinking my canned good buying habits.

Consumer Reports magazine tested an array of brand-name canned foods for a report in its December issue and found BPA in almost all of them. The magazine says that relatively high levels turned up, for example, in 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 (but not in the powdered version) and in canned Nestlé* Juicy Juice (but not in the juice boxes). The BPA in the food probably came from an interior coating used in many cans.

*Which you are already boycotting anyway, right? ;) No? Here’s the Nestle Boycott list.

What’s the problem with BPA?
It’s a synthetic estrogen (an endocrine disruptor) and has been linked to everything from childhood behavioral problems and breast cancer to obesity, infertility, and genital abnormalities, and possibly diabetes and heart disease as well. In other words, it’s a chemical you likely don’t want in your or your children’s bodies, yet “more than 92 percent of Americans have BPA in their urine.”

So sure, I’m buying mostly organic foods in those cans, but what good does it do us if the organic foods are chock full of BPA? Ugh.

Julie at Terminal Verbosity recently wrote about the new findings and has some suggestions on how you can reduce your BPA exposure.

  • Stop buying canned goods” – Use your crock pot to make beans or soups instead. Both generally freeze well.
  • Check your hard plastic food receptacles” – Or switch to glass food storage containers (I recently got a set at Costco for a under $40 I think.)
  • Beware plastic toys, especially teethers” – You’d think our children’s toys would be safe from this chemical, but nope, they’re not.

Julie has further information on these suggestions and links in her post.

The more I learn, the more I think I’m finally going to have to bite the bullet and start cooking my own beans and freezing them. I know it’s not hard (Tara @ Feels Like Home has tips in her post How To Prepare Dried Beans), it’s just one more thing that I don’t want to add to my list, however I think the health payoffs are definitely worth it. We’re exposed to enough harmful chemicals in our environment without having to eat them too.

Edited to add: If you’ve ever been concerned about possible lead leaching into your food from your crock pot, you’ll want to give this a read! Check out another post from Julie where she has several of the leading brands of crock pots tested for lead. (Spoiler alert: it’s good news!)

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35 thoughts on “BPA, its everywhere you don’t want it to be

  1. I received a pressure cooker for Xmas last year and haven’t purchased canned beans since. I try to make a bulk batch once at the beginning of the week for use in salads, recipes, etc. throughout the week. It’s cheaper and I don’t worry about BPA as much.

  2. A warning: Ball (and Mason and Kerr) jar lids have a lining with BPA. I don’t worry about that because my food doesn’t touch it, but some people might be concerned.

  3. I guess I was hoping there are cans available that are BPA free… just provide some pressure for companies to switch to them.
    I’ve heard about this too, but was under the impression that it really effects more acidic products…. so diced tomatoes might be a problem, but beans not so much.
    I was at Trader Joes and asked about this, they will hopefully call me back, because the person I found didn’t know (but they also mentioned the acidic connection).
    If bpa is in all cans but doesn’t leach unless the food is acidic than maybe we’ll see certain products switch to glass or other options.
    Maybe bpa is in all cans and leaches to various degrees? Than maybe minimizing exposure might be enough.
    Off to check out some links…

  4. Thanks for noting that, Rachel. I had heard that about BPA in the lid liners. I know there are some that come without it. But yes, if the food isn’t touching the lids, I wouldn’t be as worried about it.

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  7. I’m working on phasing out our canned food. I still have a few cans of veggies, soup (though I have found some brands use glass!), and canned chicken (I eat this in place of tuna which I love because while it still has bpa it doesn’t have mercury.).

    I hope more companies will be like Eden’s food and stop using BPA!

  8. Rats. Canned tomatoes are a big staple for us. How else are we supposed to make spaghetti? (I know, grow and can our own tomatoes in the summer, but at this point, that bird has flown.)

  9. I think that the key here isn’t only to pressure companies to stop using BPA but to also keep the food affordable. I’m sure that if they all switch over to glass containers then the costs will go us. Good, quality store bought food is so freaking expensive as it is and I’m guessing that they won’t convert if it increases the cost. Otherwise, how many of us will be able to afford it anyway?

    It’s frustrating knowing that we are being poisoned by chemicals like this as well as knowing that we have to pay out the wazoo to get food untainted by such crap. That is, unless we all have yards for gardens or community gardens and can produce all of our food ourselves. My family, unfortunately has neither option available for the time being.

  10. I canned pinto beans (pressure canner) and froze chick peas this fall for this exact reason. Freezing bothers me yet, because I have to use a zip lock (plastic bag). Pressure Canner actually took less time, because you only have to cook the beans partially, as they finish cooking in the pressure canner! So, I’d say that canning would be the way to go, except for the upfront cost of the canner (I borrowed mine). At the same time this is the sad, sad reminder of why I wanted to can my own tomatoes this year, but alas at $40/20lb I didn’t do it :(

  11. HI! Just wanted to let you know that cooking dried beans is not **ALL** that much work! I frequently do the “quick soak” method where you bring dried beans and water to boiling, them take them off the heat and soak for only a few hours. I always seem to forget to soak the night before! They still have to simmer for 90 minutes or so, but it does work. They can also be frozen once they are cooked and used just like you would canned beans.

    You can also cook them in a crock pot. Directions from one of my favorite blogs here: http://crockpot365.blogspot.com/2008/10/cooking-dried-beans-in-crockpot.html.

    Thanks for bringing this issue up.

  12. In the past several months, we’ve been figuring out how to cook and freeze dry beans, for this reason among others. It works pretty well if you don’t mind planning ahead. (Cans are much more last-minute friendly!)

    We also threw out all our plastic storage containers and got some Pyrex glass ones (please tell me Pyrex isn’t Nestle-owned…), same with our quart jugs for water. The lids are still plastic, but I agree that not as much touches the lids, so not as big a deal. The nice thing with the Pyrex containers is they can go in the oven, fridge, microwave, dishwasher, and freezer, so they’re more all-purpose. Heavier, though!

  13. I have a little sign I made on my kitchen wall that says “Could you be soaking beans?” It always makes me laugh and then gets me thinking about dinner. I have jars of dried beans but usually end up using the canned ones because I am always forgetting to cook the others. Maybe if I just stop buying canned beans all together I would HAVE to remember. So far I have been ignoring the fact that there is probably BPA on/in the cans. But now you’ve got me feeling guilty. Thanks! ;)

  14. great post! glad the kristof article inspired you to write it…

    every time i buy canned beans i sigh a little and wonder if i should be soaking/cooking my own…but usually the cans win out since it makes it all just so much easier.

    this article killed me a little because i always feel like i’m doing so well by serving my family healthy beans! ugh.

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  16. DANG IT! I just got the whole family behind a Nestle boycott here and what do I do?! I buy JUICY JUICE. I SO need to start checking that list before I go grocery shopping. UGH!

  17. Emma ate almost exclusively canned veggies for about 6 months of her life…sigh. I have been trying to reduce our dependence on canned goods due to both BPA and sodium levels and recently cooked dried beans myself for the first time. It requires some time and planning (no last minute throwing dinner together), but is not hard at all.

  18. I’m still not sure if I’m going to start making my own beans. It seems that the beans don’t leach as much of the BPA as the tomatoes do. The acidic tomato products are the real BPA culprits. Arg. Someday I hope to have a huge garden so I can grow a$$loads of tomatoes to preserve myself. :)

    Melodie & Phyllis – I’m feeling the guilt too. Oy.

    Brandy – it’s hard when Nestle owns SO.FRICKIN’.MUCH.STUFF! I need to make a small (ha! is that even possible?) print out version of the boycott list so ppl can carry it in their purse, wallet, etc. :)

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  20. I just packed up all my canned foods and sent them back to the companies with a copy of this page from Crunchy’s blog. (Thanks, Amy!) Who knows if they will respond. Yes, it cost me 314.00 in shipping ( I had a stocked pantry). It also took the better part of an afternoon. (Thanks to my little tikes that I had help pack the boxes.) I believe it is worth it. I was going to give the cans to the food bank, but why should the needy be exposed right now?
    I just hope my husband doesn’t freak out!!!
    Next, I am going to school with my kids tomorrow to suggest that they don’t use canned foods (especially tomatoes) in their food. I doubt they will have many other options, so I guess that leaves me to pack my daughters lunch now?
    What is this world coming to?
    The health care debate…..watch, now people will be denied coverage for eating canned goods.
    A little extreme, but I am just so down about this information.

  21. I don’t normally use canned goods just because I don’t like the taste of the can (maybe I know why now!). Well, it’s officially, I’m never going to buy anything in cans again. You’re so right. You can buy organic, but the can may still hurt you. I’m sticking with my own cooking.

    Thanks for the great blog!

  22. This whole issue is a big concern of mine. I can most of my own food but if BPA is present in the jar lids then I’m not doing much good for myself. I think we all need to write to Ball or Kerr and pressure them to produce some without the coating so we can at least have a choice!

  23. Lily – I’d LOVE to know what response, if any, you get from the companies. Can you email me? For some reason, I’m not getting notices when people leave me comments so I don’t have your email address or I’d email you directly about this. Thanks!

    Kris – There are some lids available without BPA, but off the top of my head, I’m not sure who makes them.

  24. I cook my own beans and its so easy. I just soak overnight and then cook in a crockpot all day long, though be careful about the red kidney beans, they need boiling water poured over them at the beginning. I then freeze them in glass containers… 1 1/2 cups=1 can. It saves money and cuts down on waste and bpa!!

  25. In my post college paying back student loans and early marriage years, which we laughingly call our Poverity Years, my husband and I experimented with cooking dried beans. We knew from our vegartian friends that beans and rice were a complete protein (mine 1 amino acid) and darn cheap. The method we use to this day (because we ended up liking trying all different types of beans)is to soak them in the crock pot on low for 8 hours. My husband usually does this Sunday night, so we can drain the beans Monday am for his lunch. He scoops out a portion and adds spices, tomato sauce, etc. The rest go into a container in the refrigerator for his lunches to be used for other meals.

  26. Beans are easy. I find that they work better if I take the time to do an overnight soak, instead of the “quick soak”. And they do freeze really well.

  27. it is possable to fight back just make lables of a skull and cross bones that says poisn bpa then may be a web site somthing small you can put on a can or plastic bottle if thousands of these start showing up on supper market shelves beleve me it will be noticed and if a web site were created so as to down load stickers you could have a impact

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