Chemical Leaching Into Canned Foods

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There is something leaching out of tin cans and baby  bottles, according to two environmental organizations in the U.S. It is called “bisphenol A”, a controversial chemical used to make plastic products. The companies that make bisphenol A say that it is perfectly safe, and currently there is no regulation as to how much is allowed to be lurking in food.

That could be a problem, because several different lab tests have shown that bisphenol A is linked to lowered sperm counts, puberty changes, birth defeats, and some cancers — because of its ability to influences hormones in animals. What it does in humans is as yet unknown.

Recently, a couple of environmental groups discovered that canned goods in large U.S. supermarkets had relatively high readings of bisphenol A. The highest levels detected were four times greater than the highest ever found in Europe, suggesting the leaching problem is more acute in America. The highest levels, should you be interested, were found in (canned) chicken noodle soup and mixed vegetables. Also worrisome was the chemical’s high presence in plastic baby bottles.

Bisphenol A makes polycarbonate plastic, a substance almost like glass that is used in hard-plastic water bottles. You know a product contains this chemical if you see this logo on the packaging: the number “7” within a triangle. It shows up in tin cans because  bisphenol A is added to resin that lines the inside of cans. Manufacturers do this to avoid food picking up a metallic taste.

The problem is that, if we can attempt a shot at some chemistry here, the bonds that hold bisphenol A together are not stable. They can break apart, allowing some to leachinto food or liquid housed by the can or bottle.

Needless to say, the manufacturers say the small levels that  people might consume are so remote they wouldn’t present a health problem. The environmental groups, of course, disagree and are pushing the government to impose an iron fist on bisphenol A in baby bottles.

For consumers who are concerned about this chemical, it wouldn’t take dramatic changes to cut down on eating canned foods. Fresh vegetables are always better anyway.Soups can be made at home (and are much more satisfying), or purchased in containers other than tin — such as glass.