Bisphenol A in Tinned Foods

The consumer group Choice wants authorities to phase out packaging that contains Bisphenol A, 
(BPA) a plastic used to stop metals in tinned foods from rusting. BPA has been used in the manufacturing of hard plastic bottles and metal cans since the 1960s. When you open a tin of food you can see if it is lined with a white plastic.
The concern about BPA is that it is an endocrine disruptor. In other words, it affects the hormone balance in humans. Health problems that BPA have been linked to are infant behavioral problems, hyperactivity, birth defects, infertility, diabetes and cancer. 

Choice conducted a survey and tested 41 tinned foods from Australian supermarket shelves. It found that 33 of these contained BPA and 29 of these had concerning levels of Bisphenol-A. The cans tested included baby food and the highest level of BPA found was in a canned baby custard.

Choice believes these levels cross the line in terms of safety, after recognising that international studies are concerning enough for precautions to be taken. Christopher Zinn, from Choice, says that safe dose levels were established in the 1980s, but since then it’s been found that lower levels might have more negative effects than higher levels. 

Unfortunately, switching to baby foods which are packaged in glass jars may not solve the problem, because glass jars have PVC seals in their lids, which also contain BPA and other chemical-containing plasticisers, which can leach into food, particularly fatty food. 

Whether BPA is toxic to babies and children in particular, is a question of exposure over time. 
Unfortunately, the studies that are conducted tend to be only on a single product. BPA is used in the manufacture of baby bottles, drink bottles, rubber & plastic toys that babies put into their mouths, and dental materials, to name a few. Put these all together, and one can only guess at what the real exposure is to the average baby or child.

Food Standards Australia New Zealand is doing its own survey of BPA in Australian Foods, which is expected out by the end of the year. 

The deputy chief executive of the Australian Food and Grocery Council, Dr Geoffrey Annison, says BPA in food packaging is safe, but Australian food companies are responding to consumer concerns. Different companies will be acting at different rates. Because the BPA problem is a well-known issue now, it's had plenty of exposure in the media, companies will be looking at their products, taking advice from the regulators and trying to minimise if not remove the amount of BPA in their products. 

It is hard to imagine parents being happy with waiting for BPA restrictions or bans to eventuate. Until then, it is impossible to measure the levels of BPA an individual (baby or child) is receiving. Fortunately, it is possible to avoid BPA in a number of ways.

Some of these are:

  • Buy BPA free baby bottles
  • Avoid storing food in plastic containers
    Avoid using cling wrap in microwaves
  • Microwave foods using ceramic containers
  • Minimise using tinned foods (especially tomatoes)
  • Minimise prepared baby foods
  • Replace plastic toys with wooden and cloth ones

Look for BPA-Free labels. BPA free products are easily available via the Internet and increasingly in large retail outlets. Parents with children who have learning and behavioural disorders should especially avoid BPA and other chemicals as much as possible.


Previous page: Fragrances a Chemical Cocktail
Next page: Cholesterol