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Eating Fresh Food Drastically Reduces BPA Levels, Study Finds

3/30/2011 3:24:02 PM

Tags: BPA, bisphenol A, Breast Cancer Fund, Silent Spring Institute, Environmental Health Perspectives, BPA in canned food, phthalates, Robyn Griggs Lawrence

Robyn Griggs Lawrence thumbnailBPA levels in families who ate fresh rather than canned or plastic-packaged food for three days dropped by an average of 60 percent, according to a study released today by the Breast Cancer Fund and Silent Spring Institute. Bishphenol A (or BPA), which is used to line food cans, has been linked to breast cancer, infertility, early puberty and other health problems.

The five families in the study, which was published in Environmental Health Perspectives, avoided canned foods and drinks and meals prepared outside the home in lieu of freshly prepared organic meals in glass storage containers. During the three days that the families ate the fresh food, their BPA levels dropped on average by 60 percent. When families returned to their regular diets, their BPA levels climbed back to the higher levels.

Canned Food 

Phthalates, plastic-softening chemicals that can interfere with reproductive development, also dropped in participants when they ate fresh food. Levels of DEHP, a phthalate used in food containers and plastic wraps, dropped by an average of 50 percent when families were on the fresh-food diet.

“This study suggests that removing BPA from food packaging will remove the No. 1 source of BPA exposure,” says Janet Gray, Ph.D., science adviser to the Breast Cancer Fund. “The study should serve as a call to action for industry and government to get BPA out of food packaging and to fix the broken chemical management system that allows it to be there in the first place.”

“This is an important study,” says Andy Igrejas, director of Safer Chemicals for Healthy Families. “It highlights two things: first, the government still does not have a handle on these chemicals even though health concerns have been established for years. Secondly, there is something consumers can do. As long as the federal government fails to identify and restrict toxic substances, consumers will increasingly have to take matters into their own hands through efforts like restricting their packaged food.”

Last year, Consumer Reports tested 19 name-brand foods and found the highest levels of BPA, ranging from 36 parts per billion (ppb) to 191 ppb, in Del Monte Fresh Cut Blue Lake Green Beans. High levels were also found in Progresso Vegetable Soup, with BPA levels ranging from 67 to 134 ppb, and Campbell’s Condensed Chicken Noodle Soup, ranging from 55 to 102 ppb. Based on studies from the 1980s, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) considers exposure of 50 micrograms per kilogram of BPA per body weight per day to be safe. A 165-pound adult eating one serving of canned green beans, which averaged 123.5 ppb of BPA, would ingest .2 micrograms of the chemical — 83 times the recommended amount.

Earlier this month, China followed Europe, Canada and the United Arab Emirates in banning BPA from children’s products. The U.S. Food and Drug Association has not addressed the chemical, and its proposal to list BPA as a “chemical of concern” has stalled in the White House Office of Management and Budget. Nine states have passed laws regulating BPA. The National Resources Defense Council recommends avoiding baby bottles and sippy cups made of polycarbonate (hard, clear, shatterproof) plastic, marked with the recycling symbol #7 and sometimes labeled “PC.”

The Breast Cancer Fund and Silent Spring Institute offer the following suggestions for reducing exposure to BPA and DEHP:

  • Cook at home with fresh foods
  • Avoid canned foods. (The Breast Cancer Fund found that BPA especially leaches into canned foods that are acidic, salty or fatty canned foods such as coconut milk, soup and vegetables.)
  • Choose glass and stainless steel food and beverage containers.
  • Never microwave anything in plastic. Use ceramic or glass instead.
  • Consider a French press for coffee. Home coffeemakers may have polycarbonate-based water tanks and phthalate-based tubing.
  • Eat out less, especially at restaurants that do not use fresh ingredients.
  • Choose fresh fruits and vegetables when possible, and frozen if not.
  • Soak dried beans for cooking (you can make extra and freeze them).

For additional tips or to download a shopper’s guide, visit, and check out our guide to safer plastics and Natural Home & Garden’s Five Steps to Avoiding BPA.

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Post a comment below.


t brandt
5/1/2011 6:38:57 AM
You're right, Jerm. The math is wrong, but more importantly, the threat is overblown. The BPA recommmendations are not based on any sound science. The studies are all done on rats with absurdly high exposure rates to BPA. The only human studies are based on observations of Chinese chemical workers & their fertility rate (in a country with a one-child-poicy. What's up with that?) While I'm a big advocate of living naturally, we have the problem that we've got to feed the masses. Many people just don't have the choice of using all fresh food and we must resort to these industrial expedients. Nobody should get their shorts in a bunch over this one. BTW- we don't die of heart disease at age 55 like we used to, so cancer rates are now higher. Nobody gets out of this alive.

4/29/2011 9:34:15 AM
While I'm all about ditching BPA, I'm struggling with the math here. How is .2 micrograms GREATER than 50 micrograms / kg * 75 kg. Wouldn't that mean that the 165 lb (75 kg) human would be able to ingest 3,750 micrograms of BPA per day safely, which would certainly be greater than the aforementioned 0.2? Or, are we talking MILLIgrams instead (2,000 micrograms), in which case, it would still be less than the recommended daily limit for this particular person (albeit a large chunk of their max per day). In fact, to be 83x greater (than 3,750 micrograms), it would have to be roughly 0.3 GRAMS of BPA... What am I missing?

4/27/2011 9:11:33 PM
This trips me out. I just found out today that when I raise rabbits, if I advertise them as "meat rabbits" and sell them that way, I can go to JAIL. Because of FDA requirements and USDA permitting and inspection. And yet, the government can turn around and legally POISON ME?????? And yet, I contend again, as a low income person... the average low income person cannot eat on this diet, fresh foods and whatnot. Unless you live on dry beans and not much else. It's simply too expensive. And what is handed out for government commodities at our foodbanks, sanctioned by the government? Salt laden, cans with poison in them... packaged food. Substandard food at that. I don't know if you've ever had canned salmon or canned chicken but it's really gross. It has the government label on it and it has bones and parts in it. I fed it to my cat. The cat wasn't too crazy about it, either. When it becomes legislated so that it becomes COST EFFECTIVE for the average American to eat this healthy diet, then we will see change. Until then, most of us will still eat at the dollar menu at McDonalds and open up that box of mac n cheese.

Victoria L McIntosh
4/26/2011 3:20:10 PM
I am so relieved to see these results.I have suspected for years that the high cancer rate in this country was the result of artifical flavoring coloring or preservatives. I switched to a stainless steel water bottle last year,cause of Cheryl Crows story about BPH.I know it has been banned in Canada,Europe etc.I also hate the carbon footprint with plastic,we need to start a movement cause the F.D.A has their head up their ass!It's always about money,please keep up the good work!

4/14/2011 9:17:03 AM
Ordinary metal canning lids are lined with BPA. For canning, use Tatler lids that fit regular canning jars (they have no BPA.) or choose sthe more expensive Weck glass lidded jars. Lehman's has both of these online. For commercial canned goods, Eden Organic uses BPA-free cans. Eden has a wide range of beans, soups, etc. in safe cans. They are the only ones I know of that don't use BPA lining. Check their website for details.

4/14/2011 8:17:00 AM
I don't buy anything canned in other than glass containers. I like wine and I buy it in 4 liter or 1gal jugs. Then I use the empties for storing my bulk food purchases. I also reuse large jars like the ones pickles come in. For temporary storage in the refridgerator I use wide mouth small capacity canning jars. I would like to know whether there is BPA on canning lids. Other recycling--large entertainment centers are becoming obsolete because of advances in electronics. There is no market for them so they are often in Craigslist free stuff. They make great raised bed gardens.

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