Toronto, ON — A new report by six non-profit organizations, including Environmental Defence, shows that the majority of food cans sold by popular retailers contain bisphenol A (BPA), a chemical linked to endocrine (hormone) disruption; hyperactivity and low prosocial behaviour in children; and breast and prostate cancers.
Environmental Defence collaborated with the US Breast Cancer Fund; Campaign for Healthier Solutions; Clean Production Action; Ecology Centre; and Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families’ Mind the Store Campaign to test 192 food cans collected from some of the largest retailers in North America. The report Buyers Beware: Toxic BPA & Regrettable Substitutes in the Linings of Canned Food shows that 67 per cent of cans tested contained BPA-based epoxy in the can lining.
Seventeen out of the 21 food cans purchased from three of the largest retailers in Canada (Walmart, Loblaws and Sobeys) contained BPA in their linings. These cans included popular products like beans, vegetables such as green beans and tomatoes, chicken broth, and cranberry sauce.
A national survey shows that 95 per cent of Canadians have BPA in their bodies, and according to scientific data, food contaminated with BPA from packaging materials such as metal cans is a major source.
“The fact that many food cans contain endocrine-disrupting BPA means that Canadians may be eating food contaminated with the hormone-mimicking chemical,” said Maggie MacDonald, Toxics Program Manager with Environmental Defence. “This is very disconcerting as Canadians who rely on canned foods in their diets may be at continuous risk of developing serious health problems.”
The report also highlights that some brands are choosing harmful substitutes such as polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and concerning chemicals such as polyester, and that none of the Canadian retailers surveyed had committed to phasing out BPA in their private label products.
“It shouldn’t be a buyer beware situation for shoppers every time they set foot in the canned food aisle,” said Janet Nudelman, Director of Program and Policy for the Breast Cancer Fund. “National brands need to get BPA out of food can linings and fully disclose the identity and safety of any BPA alternatives they’re using. Consumers deserve protection from the toxic effects of this hormonally active chemical and the likelihood of exposure to equally toxic alternatives.”
“We know that some companies are making progress in moving away from using the harmful substance BPA in their food cans and that there are safer alternatives, such as oleoresin,” MacDonald added. “We urge retailers and can suppliers to publicly commit to eliminating BPA from food cans and to develop comprehensive safe substitution policies within established timelines.”
The French government recently banned the use of toxic BPA in all food contact materials – in other words, in packaging materials that directly touch food contents. The European Commission is also planning restrictions. In 2010, Canada declared BPA toxic and only banned it in baby bottles and sippy cups, but the chemical can still be found in other products, such as food cans.
“It’s time that the federal government takes the right steps to truly protect Canadians by phasing out BPA in food cans,” said MacDonald.
The report Buyers Beware: Toxic BPA & Regrettable Substitutes in the Linings of Canned Food can be downloaded at environmentaldefence.ca/buyersbeware.
About ENVIRONMENTAL DEFENCE (environmentaldefence.ca): Environmental Defence is Canada’s most effective environmental action organization. We challenge, and inspire change in government, business and people to ensure a greener, healthier and prosperous life for all.