A recent study published in the November 23rd Journal of the American Medical Association found that people who ate canned soup for five days straight saw their urinary levels of the chemical bisphenol A (BPA) spike 1,200 per cent compared to those who ate fresh soup. About a year ago, the FDA admitted that BPA is dangerous, but conceded that the government agency is powerless to regulate its use.
BPA is an endocrine-disrupting chemical pervasive in our food supply thanks to its use in lining canned goods. Over the years, studies have linked it to breast and prostate cancer, diabetes, obesity, heart disease, reproductive failures and behavioral problems.
Although these ill effects have been widely circulated (enough so that baby bottle manufacturers are quick to point out their new BPA-free plastic), it is not until this study that we learned just how easily BPA levels rise in the body when exposed to canned foods.
Participants in the study ate a 12-ounce serving of either fresh or canned soup for five days in a row. In all other ways, their diets were not altered. They simply added in a single serving of soup daily. After a two-day break, the groups switched so that those who’d eaten canned soup now ate fresh and those who’d eaten fresh soup now ate canned. This way, researchers could measure the “typical” amount of BPA in their urine and compare it to the amount after consuming one additional canned food per day.
The results were simply shocking in their magnitude. Those who ate canned soup had 1,221 per cent higher levels of BPA than those who ate the fresh soup.
Imagine what this means for the typical consumer!
I grew up eating canned vegetables. Although I got out of the canned vegetable habit somewhere in my early twenties when I struck out on my own, I did still buy canned soups, canned tomatoes, and canned fish like tuna and salmon. Even buying organic versions of those foods doesn’t make a consumer safe, since most organic canned goods still contain BPA in the linings. Only recently have I started opting out of canned goods altogether, with the only exception being some canned fish which I know to be in BPA-free cans.
“The magnitude of the rise in urinary BPA we observed after just one serving of soup was unexpected and may be of concern among individuals who regularly consume foods from cans or drink several canned beverages daily,” said senior author Karin Michels. “It may be advisable for manufacturers to consider eliminating BPA from can linings.” (1)
Many manufacturers have started doing just that. In fact, my local grocery store has started carrying a few. And I admit to buying them!
(There you have it, fine readers. I’m a busy mother of three, and I’m happy for my shortcuts when I need them.)
Where To Find BPA Free Canned Foods
Only Muir Glen seems to have solved the mystery of how to can tomatoes in a BPA-free can. Unfortunately, they are still in the process of transitioning to BPA-free cans. Plus, there is nothing on their label yet to indicate which cans are BPA-free and which cans aren’t. Rather than waste my money on a chance that I might be buying BPA-free tomatoes, I prefer these BPA-free, non-canned choices:
Bionaturae Organic Tomato Paste
This tomato paste is literally just like homemade. Pure organic tomatoes. No added ingredients. Sealed up nicely in a BPA-free jar so you can relish tomato-rich goodness all winter long. This is great stirred into curries, sauces, and stews.
Pomi Chopped Tomatoes
These are another pure tomato product with no added ingredients, seasonings, etc. They are stored in BPA-free tetra pack, but chopped for when you need more texture than plain tomato paste. Pomi is an Italian product, and is therefore not USDA Certified Organic. They think they’re better than organic. Here’s why. According to Pomi’s marketing department, “To answer if Pomi is organic, Pomi’s manufacturer Boschi is a certified producer of organic products in Italy. Also, Pomi’s tomatoes are never grown with herbicides or pesticides. The process is all natural which produces the highest quality and most natural tomatoes. We do not use genetically modified seeds to grow our tomatoes either. Pomi abides by the European Union’s regulations for sustainable agriculture. Italy has much stricter policies with regards to what is considered organic and how farmer’s grow their crops.”
Muir Glen Organic Fire Roasted Tomato Pasta Sauce
Of course, any jarred pasta sauce is probably safe from BPAs, but this is our favorite. I love the flavor of the fire-roasted tomatoes. It’s awfully convenient to have this on hand when I don’t have any home jarred tomato sauces to turn to.
Native Forest Organic Coconut Milk
To my knowledge, Native Forest is the only brand of BPA-free canned coconut milk available on the market.
Yes, it’s still canned. But that’s it! It’s just coconut milk and nothing else — no guar gum, no fillers or additives, and NO BPA.
Wild Planet Sustainably Caught Wild Albacore Tuna
The entire line of Wild Planet’s canned seafood is BPA-free, and the tuna is what we buy most often. It’s sustainably caught and wild, and it makes a quick lunch or dinner when you’ve forgotten to get something out of the freezer in time.
Alternatives to Canned Pantry Foods
Of course, you can always be super industrious and put up your owned home-canned (really jarred) vegetables, soups, and sauces. Even if you don’t grow your own, you can buy in bulk at the Farmer’s Market when that crop’s harvest comes in. It’s invariably quite cheap, usually cheaper than buying similar, non-organic food at the super market since the farmers have to get rid of large quantities quickly.
You can also cook foods up fresh and in season. Eating seasonally is quite adventurous, and I love doing that with most of my vegetables and fruits. The downside for me is that it means not having tomatoes or berries in the winter, and that’s something I just can’t abide. Hence, I either home can these few items when they’re abundant and ripe, or I buy BPA-free versions of these out of season at the store. The good news is that I only make homemade soups these days. If I have too many leftovers, I simply freeze them. Here’s a list of some of my favorite fall soups.
It goes without saying that, for me, other canned goods — like sodas, veggies, or beans — simply aren’t worth the effort of finding BPA-free. Not only are these canned goods devoid of nutrients, but they’re far better fresh or frozen. We make homemade water kefir soda and kombucha — beautiful tasting probiotic-rich alternatives to soda. Nothing beats fresh veggies, although we often use frozen veggies to get greens out of season. And dried beans are so inexpensive and easy to store, soak, sprout, & prepare that I see no need to pay an arm and a leg for organic BPA-free canned beans.
Becky D says
Eden Organics has beans in BPA free cans, and they also soak their beans overnight before canning them. Their canned tomatoes aren’t BPA free, but they now have a line of tomato products in glass jars. I make a lot of my own beans from dried, but I love to have some Eden beans in the pantry also.
Thanks, Becky. I think people have to prioritize their spending for themselves, but for me I can’t figure out why I’d pay so much for a can of beans!
Dried beans are simply cheap, cheap, cheap and easy to soak overnight. The only thing required is a little forethought. But if canned beans fit into your idea of a convenience for when you’re too rushed to properly soak beans, AND you think that convenience is worth the cost, then MORE POWER TO YOU.
I imagine I’ll catch flack for buying any pantry foods at all, so I’ll not be casting any stones. 🙂
Becky D says
There are times when my husband has to be the one to cook. I have to make it as easy as possible for him, or he will go through a drive-thru. He’ll open a can, but he wouldn’t take already cooked beans out of the freezer and thaw them. 🙂 If the price of a can of beans means he’ll actually make a pot of chili vs. the alternative – then I’ll take it!
Plus, Eden is a local company, and I like supporting them, and our local grocery store often has them on sale for a very good price. Not as cheap as dried beans that’s for sure – but not bad.
Oh, you’re lucky to have a husband who cooks at all! Mine only recently started scrambling eggs after thirteen years of marriage.
Personally, I like having canned beans in my emergency pantry… I live in South Florida and hurricanes are a real issue (and I may need my water reserves for something other then bean soaking)
Otherwise, I soak my beans.
Food Babe says
I love EDEN!
Great article and info. I have heard that the lids that ball makes for home canning are coated with a bpa containing substance. Also I have been buying Aroy-D coconut milk in tetra packs because I thought that avoided bpa and it doesn’t have gums but was told by a friend that most tetra packs contain bpa.
Do you know if this is true and have you verified that the pomi tomatoes are bpa free?
Also I think Eden has some tomato products available in jars. I have seen then online but not in stores. Bionature has tomato puree in jars as well that we like to use.
About home canning lids — Some brands are BPA-free, like these Tattler Reusable Regular Canning Lids. I don’t worry about the Ball brand lids because I usually leave a space of air at the top of the jar, so the food never actually touches the BPA-lined lid.
It is true that most tetra packs contain BPA. The good news is that the Pomi brand is BPA-free! And, yes, I have confirmed this.
I, too, have seen the Eden tomato products in jars online, but never at my local supermarket. This post contains a list of what I buy at my neighborhood grocery store. Since it’s not even a natural grocer, I’m impressed that even this selection is available!
I rarely go to a regular grocery store because I rarely find anything we can eat there. I haven’t ever found any of these brands there so I missed that point of your post.
Thanks for the name of bpa free jar lids. My sauerkraut usually bubbles up and touches the lid and I have been wanting an alternative.
I think I’m lucky because I live near a majorly hip metropolitan area. I’m in Georgetown, TX which is just outside of Austin. So, even our “normal” grocery stores contain some stuff I can buy. I get these canned goods, white fish roe, fresh wild caught seafood, Applegate Farms uncured processed meats (we like their Grass-Fed Beef hotdogs and Genoa Salami), Organic Valley Pastured Butter, White Mountain Bulgarian Whole Milk Yogurt, and a few other goodies.
Natural Value makes coconut milk with no stabilizers or additives in regular tin cans with no lining. And their prices are great!
Hmmm. When I emailed Natural Value to find out if their cans of coconut milk are BPA-free, the president of the company replied that yes, their cans still contain BPA.
Food Babe says
Yikes – Thanks for doing the research for us!
Kelly @ The Nourishing Home says
Thank you so much for sharing this! I also like to buy Eden Foods Organic Tomatoes in amber glass. Here is a link for more info. This would be a great addition to your list for readers. Thanks again! I always enjoy your informative posts! Blessings, Kelly
Unfortunately, I’ve never seen these at my local grocery store, so they didn’t make my list. 🙁
Eden doesn’t sell tomatoes to my Whole Foods. They do have jarred tomatoes but the lids still have BPA in them. I use Tattler jar lids on my Ball jars.
I finally found a BPA, all natural, nothing added coconut milk…. I hesitate to share because they always have a limited supply and run out, so I’m sharing a precious resource here people. lol… anyway, here it goes… http://importfood.com/naturalcoconutmilk.html
Now don’t go buying all of it, I’ll still need my regular order!! 😉
Yes. I’ve been aware of them for a while. One of my sponsors even carries a tetra pack coconut milk that I’ve enjoyed. You can look for it on my Resources page. This post, however, was all about what I’ve found at my local grocery store, so the Aroy-D brand and the Wilderness Family Naturals brand didn’t make the list.
Julie Matthews says
In addition to “behavioral problems,” BPA has be implicated as a potential cause of autism. After years of working with autism as a nutritionist, I’m convinced that a combination of genetic predispositions combined with environmental assaults is at the root of autism. And BPA is one important environmental factor that more people need to know about. And as someone dealing with diet for autism, I can tell you, avoiding canned foods lined with BPA is a simple (and effective) place to start! Thanks for sharing this important information!
Peter @ Healing Center of Maine says
What is a safe way to freeze food? Is there a good alternative to plastic freezer bags?
You can use glass, of course, if it’s not a liquid that will expand and break the glass. I’ve successfully frozen eggs and homemade tomato sauce in 1 cup glass canning jars. The only breakage I get is with freezing milk or broth in large canning jars–those tend to break. However, plastic doesn’t tend to migrate into food when frozen, so is not nearly as big a concern for frozen foods as for foods in the fridge or foods being heated. I store frozen foods in plastic but use mostly glass or ceramic in the fridge and for heating foods.
I was wondering about freezing in glass – I am under the impression that it is the crimp in the jar that causes jars to crack when things expand. So a straight-sided jar would be fine, but any jar that constricts at the top (reg. mouth pint and qt, wide mouth qt and half gallon) would be in danger of cracking unless you left quite a bit of headspace. Anyone ever experimented along those lines?
I inherited a few freezer jars from my MIL. They are Ideal Brand, possibly a Canadian make. I think the words “food jar” are embossed on the jar, which made me think they were not specifically for canning, although I have used them that way. They are straight, with slightly tapered sides, wider at the top and fit wide mouth canning jar lids. They hold about three cups. I would guess that the logo looks 1950ish? In the same box were several identically shaped jars that once held McColl’s peanut butter. The name is embossed at the bottom edge of the jar and they have an embossed fill line about 1/4″ below the threads for the lid. They are obviously a commercial jar that was intended to be repurposed, so they are most likely pre 1960. They may also be Canadian. And some others are the same shape but have no markings that obviously identify the origins. I have several of each in my freezer right now with apple cider up to the fill line and with the white plastic (BPA?) lids that are sold by a canning jar manufacturer here. I haven’t had a crack in these, but have had other canning jars and repurposed jars with the bottoms blown out in the freezer. As I recall, all the broken jars had a shoulder below the lid, and I think that resists the expansion of the contents during freezing. I think I would use those if I had to, but leave a very large headspace – maybe even a couple inches. I have also heard that canning jars larger than one quart don’t do well in the freezer.
I like to buy Eden Organics beans – they are organic, soaked overnight and also in BPA-free cans. Yes they are a little costly, but cheaper than take-out food and an easy way to make a quick meal. http://www.edenfoods.com/articles/view.php?articles_id=178
Kendahl @ Our Nourishing Roots says
I have been avoiding BPA for a while now, and I just keep hoping that the manufacturers will continue to find ways to eliminate it from packaging (especially the “healthier” brands like Amy’s and other organic lines). But it turns out that as the real food practices snowball in my kitchen, I find it’s just easier to make my own food! So I tend to have fewer cans anyway.
Food Babe says
Doesn’t it make you made that countries like Canada have outlawed BPA but we haven’t?
So no canned foods in Canada have BPA in them? I’m thinking of a run for the border to stock up if this is true!
Wow–thank you for posting this! I was unaware that this was such a major issue. I immediately emailed Trader Joe’s, because we do most of our shopping there. Here is their response:
Thank you for contacting us. Here is the deal with BPA. First, regarding Tetra, all Tetra Pak is BPA-free.
Second, every glass jar item has a metal lid. All metal lids do have a layer of BPA coating. However, there is another coating put on after that. There is no direct contact of BPA to food. We have multiple supplier testing results showing there is no BPA detected from metal lids.
All our canned fish (and our canned chicken and beef too) are now in BPA-free cans EXCEPT: Sardines, Crab, Cherrystone Clams & Oysters (our suppliers are working for a 2012 solution).
All our canned fruits and vegetables (including tomatoes, and the Organic Canned Pumpkin when it returns this Fall) are in BPA-free cans EXCEPT: Mandarins, Hatch Chilies, Artichokes, Organic Baked Beans (expecting transition this Fall).
All of our canned Soups and Stews (and including Joe’s Os) are in cans that DO have BPA. Some of our suppliers are expecting they will be able to make transition next year.
Lastly, Coconut Milk is in a BPA-free can.
Adrienne @ Whole New Mom says
Thanks for sharing! This is why I make my own coconut milk and everything else :-). Muir Glen’s canned tomatoes are now BPA free. Did you know fillings have BPA in them (a lot of them) – and register receipts as well. Enough already.
Actually, Muir Glen tomatoes are not quite BPA free. They’re still in transition.
Thank you for this post. We were feeling really guilty about using a can of organic canned cranberry and pumpkin this Thanksgiving. Luckily I found an organic cranberry company (http://www.starvationalleyfarms.com) that I plan to look into. What we now need is someone to can organic pumpkin in a BPA free can or a glass jar.
I just realized http://www.farmersmarketfoods.com/ is now BPA free since July 2011. However, we’d love to find a small scale producer who jars organic pumpkin. Know of any?
Food Babe says
Yes – I just saw the add in “Eat Well” Magazine! Yeah for Pumpkins!
Food Babe says
I wish canning companies would put BPA free or not as a mandatory standard!
I was happy to find out that Organic Farmer’s Market Pumpkin was BPA Free! Yeah for easy to make pumpkin recipes!!!
I’m assuming there is a cost advantage to using BPA to line cans.
Perhaps if food producers were subject to a “stop poisoning your customers” surcharge for every can produced, they would switch to a healthier production method
Amy’s Kitchen, the company that makes the soup pictured in the photo above, has been in transition to BPA for a few years now and by february all of their soups will be in BPA free cans 🙂
I hope so. Earlier this year, they claimed that their transition would be completed by October. Obviously, that’s come and gone. Let’s hope to the February date sticks!
Yikes! That’s a huge increase! I panicked at the thought of my precious raw goat milk that I store in quart canning jars, using the plastic storage lids. We shake the milk prior to use to get the fat mixed back in. However, I just went to the Ball site and they DO NOT have BPA in them, whew!
However, I do buy canned tuna when it’s on sale. I’m guessing the brand you suggested here is more than I want to pay, so I’ll have to weigh the risks and benefits.
Thank you so much for the work you do for your posts!
Heh heh, bold decision using a “healthier choice” of soup there in your photo. I have to be honest, when the sauce tomatoes didn’t come in this year, I started buying canned (jarred) tomato sauce. I get Muir Glen spaghetti sauce in glass jars for every tomato use here. Next year, the tomatoes will come in (I hope) and I’ll can my own!
The FDA is well, in my humble opinion not looking out for the safety of individuals.
Being an agency that originally only had jurisdiction to regulate interstate commerce, I don’t see why or how they’ve grown to the point that they have.
That being said, I’m thankful I gave up eating food from cans many years ago! 🙂
Erika Carlson says
I thought that canning still has BPA – the lids have BPA? You don’t mention it in your article. It must be better than cans, to only have the lid contain BPA, but still wondering why you didn’t mention it?
Hi Erika, please see my comment to Pattyla above.
This site mentions that Tetra-paks have other estrogen-leaching chemicals in them that could be just as bad as BPA. I haven’t followed the links yet to confirm it’s validity, but I thought I would share. I’m sticking to glass for now: http://www.greencradle.net/2009/11/are-tetra-paks-a-healthier-or-greener-container-for-organic-foods/
I found this on another blog from a reader who wrote to Bionaturae. While there’s no BPA, there is PVC in the lid…
Here is the info from Bionaturae:
“The lids of our jars do not contain BPA but they do contain a small
percentage of PVC in the round seal that you see on the inner surface of
the lid. This is used to secure the closure of the lid and at this time,
we have been unable to use a PVC-free compound, although we continue to
search for an alternative. We have found that all packaging materials
have a negative aspect, but we make our best efforts to determine which
is the less harmful.
In our unique manufacturing process, the tomatoes are pasteurized before
they are filled in the jar and without the lid. That means that when the
lid is adhered, the temperature has already cooled. It may be possible
for PVC to migrate into food by direct contact and at certain
temperatures, but we are far below these temperatures and there is no
contact of the tomatoes with the lid during our production cycle. We
have never found any level of PVC in the finished product. You must also
consider that the percentage of surface area of the lid compared to the
glass is very small and we therefore feel glass bottles are the purest
packaging. Other packaging options for tomatoes, mainly tin cans and
Tetrapak, are entirely lined with plastics that have direct contact with
a much higher percentage of the food.
Thank you for your interest in this very important issue.
Thank you for your interest in our products.
All the best,
bionaturae Customer Service Relations
I am a Packaging Engineer at Clemson University. I have a great understanding of the four main packaging materials (metal, glass, plastic and paper) and all of their derivatives (Poly-vinyl Chloride, High-Density Polyethylene, etc. for plastic). Based on my studies and research on many forms of chemicals used for packaging, which, packaging today is critical for delivering necessities of life, we are exposed to a great deal of different chemicals. The kicker is, we have a built-in detoxification system within our body, the boss of said detoxification system being our liver. Get over it people. You will NOT totally avoid environmental ingestions, whether via breathing or eating/drinking, of unnatural chemicals. You are only adding to your stress-levels by worrying about it, which, that in itself will produce more harmful free-radicals in your body than what you are being exposed to to begin with.
Yes, but we are being inundated with so many toxins that our liver can no longer keep up with the amount of detoxification needed! Instead the body has to squirrel away and bury the excess toxins in our fat to keep it away from damaging our organs. What happens when you body breaks down fat? Now those toxins are let loose back into circulation. How about all the heavy metals stored in our bones? When people age, their bone starts breaking down and releasing all the lead that has built up over the years.
It is wise to avoid toxins when possible because we get more than enough toxins from things we cannot avoid, such as in the air we breathe! Would you rather ingest a large amount of poison or try to reduce the amount you ingest when possible?
I know this post is a bit old, but I’m just going to add the comment in case people (like me) end up here via google. Wild Planet has removed the BPA-free designation from their cans of tuna because, after independent testing, they determined there were detectable levels of BPA (albeit low) despite manufacturer assurances to the contrary. They have a press release on their website: http://www.wildplanetfoods.com/pdf/media/press/WildPlanetBPAStatement7_16_12.pdf
Further, their canned salmon is also NOT BPA-free, and they state it’s because there aren’t any manufacturers making BPA-free cans in Alaska.
As of Sept 2012, only their canned sardines are BPA-free. Disappointing, though I appreciate their transparency and still think they’re a reputable company. I have yet to find an alternative, but if anyone knows of one I’d love a recommendation!
I read an update on Muir Glen, and all their tomatoes with an expiration date of 2014 will be BPA free.
Not to be negative, but they said that for 2012 and 2013, too. The truth is, getting BPA-free cans just isn’t as easy as you’d think.
Len Bentham says
I was wondering if the metal lids of the glass jars would have BPA on them as well?
yes they do!
What are your thoughts on BPA being replaced with equally if not more toxic BPS? I remember reading about this in a few reputable sources, such as Mercola:
I try to make my own tomato sauces, make seafood fresh, and I can’t eat beans anyway, so the only unfortunate item that’s very important to me but they’re too cold to grow in Canada…you guessed it. Coconut.
Any thoughts on the BPA alternative BPS being allowed to be labeled as BPA-free but…equally harmful?
I don’t understand, why did they have the 2 groups switch? What happened to the group who went from canned to fresh soup, did their range go back to normal?
Jess, I was just going to ask the same question about BPS.
This website forgot the largest canned foods without any BPA – EDEN FOODS.
I can’t stand it when people do some research but leave out HUGE info.
Be careful! BPA-free does not mean safe! Most manufacturers are using just as dangerous BPS or BPF instead of BPA to line their cans. BPS and BPF are not necessarily any safer, they just haven’t had the research done yet because they haven’t been in use very long like the BPA. Preliminary research is suggesting that BPS might be even worse than BPA.
The only BPA-free can lining I know of that is safe and not made with any plastic BP of any kind is the Garden of Eden brand canned goods. They use oleoresinous c-enamel that does not contain the endocrine disrupter BPA. Oleoresin is a mixture of oil and resin extracted from plants such as pine or balsam fir. However, that couldn’t be used with the highly acidic tomato products so they moved those all to glass jars.