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BALTIMORE, MD –A new report released today by Maryland PIRG Foundation analyzed the linings of canned foods for the presence of Bisphenol A (BPA) and other chemicals. Buyer Beware: Toxic BPA & Regrettable Substitutes in the Linings of Canned Food, was authored by a group of six non-profit organizations and found BPA in over 60% of cans from across North America, including in Maryland. Of the Kroger-brand cans bought at Harris Teeter in Baltimore, 50% contained BPA in both the lid and lining.
Evidence has shown that BPA contributes to a whole host of health issues, including breast and prostate cancer, infertility, diabetes, asthma and attention deficit disorder. In 2010, Maryland banned BPA in baby bottles and sippy cups, and the FDA followed suit in 2012. Studies have demonstrated the capacity of BPA to migrate from food packaging into food, raising concerns about exposure to relevant levels of the chemical.
“As a mother of five and someone who was raised on canned food, the thought that there could be toxic chemicals in the linings of some well-known canned foods is alarming,” said Delegate Angela Angel, representing District 25 in Prince George’s County. “Our food should provide nourishment, not harm.”
For the first time ever, this report also identified the replacement materials for BPA in can linings, and to what extent – if any – their safety has been studied. Identifying the safety of BPA alternatives is challenging, given the insufficient FDA review and approval of packaging additives and protected trade secrets in this product sector. Aside from BPA, four major coating types were identified among the 192 cans tested, of which at least one compound, vinyl chloride, is a known human carcinogen.
“We shouldn’t have to worry that everyday products can unknowingly put our health at risk,” said Juliana Bilowich, Public Health Organizer with Maryland PIRG. “In the absence of strong regulations, retailers should step up and safely substitute BPA from all food packaging.”
Overall, ‘dollar stores’ and discount retailers were found to be among the laggards in transitioning away from BPA in can linings, further endangering low-income communities that already face elevated levels of BPA exposure. Broth and gravy cans were most likely to contain Bisphenol A, while corn and peas were least likely.
Food cans purchased from Walmart, the largest grocery retailer in the U.S., tested 88% positive for BPA, while all cans sampled from Target contained the toxic chemical. Although Campbell’s reports making ‘significant progress’ toward BPA-free food packaging, testing found BPA in 100% of the company’s cans. The day prior to this report release, Campbell’s committed to phasing out BPA from U.S.-sold cans by mid-2017, mirroring a similar announcement made by the company in 2012. Important details, such as the safety of the substitutes used and labeling for BPA and other chemicals, were left out of the company’s announced policies.
Whole Foods has adopted the strongest policy on the toxic chemical, and four major brands, including Amy’s Kitchen and ConAgra, report having fully transitioned away from toxic BPA in food cans, which was confirmed through the samples tested. Although these brands have disclosed their BPA-alternatives, significant research into the safety of the substitutes is needed, as is access to safely packaged or fresh foods.
WHAT: 192 food cans were tested for hazardous chemicals in 19 states and one Canadian province. Brands tested include: Campbell’s, Del Monte, General Mills, McCormick & Company (Thai Kitchen), Nestle, Amy’s Kitchen, Annie’s Organic, Hain Celestial Group, ConAgra, Eden Foods; and retailer’s private label brands including: Albertsons, Dollar General, Kroger, Publix, Target, Trader Joe’s, Walmart and Whole Foods.
WHO: Buyer Beware: Toxic BPA & Regrettable Substitutes in the Linings of Canned Food (#BPA #ToxicFoodCans) was conceived and authored by the Breast Cancer Fund; Campaign for Healthier Solutions; Clean Production Action; Ecology Center; Environmental Defence (Canada); and Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families’ Mind the Store campaign. More information is available at www.toxicfoodcans.org.
QUOTES FROM REPORT AUTHORS:
“Most people in the United States are exposed to BPA every day, largely from food packaging, despite the negative health impacts. It shouldn’t be a buyer beware situation for shoppers every time they set foot in the canned food aisle,” said Janet Nudelman, director of Program and Policy for the Breast Cancer Fund. “Campbell’s and other major national brands need to get BPA out of food can linings and fully disclose the identity and safety of any BPA alternatives they’re using. Consumers deserve protection from the toxic effects of this hormonally active chemical and the likelihood of exposure to unsafe toxic alternatives.”
"BPA-free doesn't mean a can lining is safe, as the substitute could itself be harmful. That is why we are asking companies to take the GreenScreen Challenge and work with us to demonstrate the chemical safety of their can liners," said Clean Production Action’s Beverley Thorpe, who helps companies understand the value of the GreenScreen® for Safer Chemicals as an essential tool for replacing toxic chemicals with safe alternatives.
”While some families are fortunate to have access and means to purchase fresh produce, many communities across America have no choice but to buy canned food lined with toxic BPA,” said Jose Bravo, coordinator of the Campaign for Healthier Solutions. “Some families, live in a food desert where fresh food simply isn’t available, or they can only afford the cheap food sold at dollar stores. These communities, people of color and low-income families are already exposed to toxic chemicals more frequently and at higher levels than the average American. The use of toxic BPA in canned foods means that families will sit down to a double serving of harmful chemicals.”
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The Maryland PIRG (Public Interest Research Group) Foundation is an independent, non-partisan group that works for consumers and the public interest. Through research, public education and outreach, we serve as counterweights to the influence of powerful special interests that threaten our health, safety, or well-being.
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