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The canning industry has been granted the ability to continue manufacturing cans that contain BPA, a known endocrine disruptor, after the FDA determined that levels in the foods exposed to the can were not toxic to humans while members of the scientific community beg to differ.

What sounds good for dinner?

IA State

The announcement (or should we say surreptitiously added to their website “announcement,” as it was not widely publicized) was made in December, stating “The conclusion of this report is that an adequate margin of safety exists for BPA at current levels of exposure from food contact uses.” The report utilized several smaller scale studies that were then compiled for data analyses, with the methodologies of these drawing fire for flaws and inconsistencies.

The report itself goes on to say, “A number of additional research studies are currently in progress, e.g., NCTR two year rodent chronic toxicity study on BPA,13 NCTR development of PBPK models,14 and NIEHS human pharmacokinetic studies.15. This safety assessment may be revised accordingly pending completion, review, and identification of data from these or other studies relevant to a dietary safety assessment.”

You know how the saying goes – “When in doubt, just chance it.”

All 4 Women


We’re not sure about you, but we always feel a lot better knowing that people who make authoritative decisions on the safety of our food take the “keep doing what we’ve always done until we find out if it’s going to kill off mankind” approach to science. Of course we’re being hyperbolic there, but the FDA’s insistence that we continue the use of something with known negative health impacts is confusing on several levels.

The first one is, why on Earth are we insisting on using a substance plenty of reputable studies have found issue with? BPA, or bisphenol A, is a synthetic estrogen found in the epoxy coated lining of aluminum cans or steel cans and several plastics. Many long term studies have shown that the chemical is an endocrine disruptor and may cause a whole host of health concerns ranging from cancer to obesity, infertility and even behavioral problems.

Several EU countries have banned it in their food packaging already, such as France, Belgium, Austria and Denmark in a “better safe than sorry” approach in light of the mounting evidence. But, that’s not how we do things around these parts. In an example of taking common sense and playing a game of “opposite day” with it, the FDA is choosing to treat BPA like a criminal on trial, assuming it’s innocent until proven guilty. They then released it on its own recognizance in the hopes that it won’t go on a killing spree while it awaits trial. Seems like a solid plan…we’d hide the children if we were you.

Sure lots of studies have shown correlations with BPA and ill-effects on health, but that doesn’t prove my client isn’t a fine, upstanding endocrine disruptor.

Best Running Shoe

Speaking of hiding the children, the second reason this is confusing is that it’s a direct contradiction of the FDAs decision to ban the chemical from baby bottles, sippy cups and formula packaging in 2012 and 2013 respectively. So, does the FDA consider this dangerous or doesn’t it? Should packaging that it is allowed to remain in carry a warning label stating that babies should abstain from eating the food contained therein? Considering that ill effects from BPA aren’t relegated only to children it seems like it should come with a warning label for everyone.

The decision of what to ban BPA in and what not to might actually boil down to industry willingness and not consumer safety. The baby industry had largely begun phasing the chemical out on its own before the FDA banned it in those products, while the canning industry has held strong to its continued use. To eliminate the ingredient, it would become necessary to completely reengineer the assembly of aluminum and steel cans, which happens to be a multi-million dollar industry.

Regardless of their reasoning, the FDA says BPA is here to stay until they discover that it’s not A-okay in canned food. If you’d rather be safe than sorry (we would, that’s for sure), there are several brands of canned foods on the market that have chosen to voluntarily remove the ingredient from their packaging. Glass packaging (though there is still some BPA in the lid) and tetra packs of foods are other ways to avoid it, oh and eating more fresh foods in place of canned items works too. We’ll definitely be taking the more proactive route in eliminating BPA exposure as much as possible as opposed to waiting for the FDA to finally agree that it’s responsible for damage already done. We’re just wacky like that.

Lead Image Source: Wild River Rogues