Be Wary of 'BPA-Free' Cans

BPA-free cans sometimes include PVC copolymer and other unsafe bisphenol A (BPA) replacements.

Canned Food Media

Two out of three cans of food from well-known producers, including Campbell’s, still have BPA in their linings.

Photo by Matthew Hurst/Flickr

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Several studies have raised concern about the endocrine-disrupting effects of bisphenol A (BPA), a compound that’s commonly used in plastics manufacturing and other applications, including as the lining of many canned foods and beverages. Endocrine disruptors, such as BPA, have been linked to an increased risk of breast and prostate cancer, infertility, type 2 diabetes, obesity, asthma, and ADHD.

Today, you’ll find canned foods labeled “BPA free” in many grocery stores — especially co-ops and health foods stores geared toward conscientious eaters. So is the overall use of controversial BPA in canned foods really declining? And what exactly is the manufacturing difference for those BPA-free can linings?

A March 2016 report collaboratively produced by five nonprofit organizations says we still need to be concerned about BPA and its replacements. The researchers tested about 200 cans of food from such popular brands as Campbell’s, Del Monte, General Mills, Annie’s Homegrown, and Eden Foods. Of the samples tested, two out of three cans were found to still contain BPA in their linings. Campbell’s ranked worst, with 100 percent of can linings containing BPA. (The company released a statement shortly after the new report was released, saying it would phase out the use of BPA in canned foods by mid-2017.)

Aside from BPA, four other coating compounds were identified in the testing: acrylic resins, oleoresin, polyester resins, and polyvinyl chloride (PVC) copolymers. Researchers found multiple formulations of these compounds, some of which led to concern. Eighteen percent of retailers’ private-label foods and 36 percent of national brands were lined with a PVC-based copolymer that’s made from hazardous chemicals, including vinyl chloride, a known human carcinogen. PVC is not considered a safe BPA replacement, meaning BPA-free cans aren’t necessarily safe.

If you’re concerned about the chemicals in the linings of canned foods, opt for fresh, frozen, or home-canned foods, or look for products canned in glass jars instead of the metal cans with questionable linings.