Katherine Tweed, 2009
Many mothers tossed their
baby bottles following reports that the chemical
Bisphenol A (BPA), found in certain plastic and food-can
liners, can cause a range of health problems. BPA is a
known endocrine disrupter, which has been linked in
studies with reproductive problems and may even cause
BPA is still widely used in the food manufacturing
business, however, and the December 2009 issue of
Consumer Reports found that the levels of the chemical
vary widely in packaged foods.
Consumer Reports tested 19 name-brand canned foods,
including juice, vegetables and soups. BPA showed up in
nearly all brands, including organic foods and some
The report comes as the U.S.
Drug Administration (FDA) reviews their guidelines
for what safe levels are. In 2008, Canada banned BPA in
baby bottles over health concerns. Currently, the upper
limit of safe exposure set by the FDA is 50 micrograms
of BPA per kilogram of body weight per day. However,
recent studies in animals have found reproductive
problems attributed to BPA at much lower levels.
The highest concentrations were found in Del Monte Fresh
Cut Green Beans Blue Lake (35.9 parts per billon (ppb)
to 191 ppb), Progresso Vegetable Soup (67 to 134 ppb)
and Campbell's Condensed Chicken Soup (54.5 to 102 ppb).
Those levels are still far below the safe exposure
levels set by the government. The FDA figures that an
exposure of just over 20 ppb translates into 0.185
micrograms for a 132-pound person who eats about 6.5
pounds of food a day.
Industry groups, such as the
North American Metal Packaging Alliance, claim that
these levels are completely safe, and BPA allows for
canned foods to be sterilized at high temperatures.
Consumer Union, the non-profit that publishes Consumer
Reports, argues that the risk is still great.
"The findings are noteworthy because they indicate the
extent of potential exposure," Urvashi Rangan, PhD,
director of technical policy at Consumer Union, said in
a statement. "Children eating multiple servings per day
of canned foods with BPA levels comparable to the ones
we found in some tested products could get a dose of BPA
near levels that have caused adverse effects in several
animal studies. The lack of any safety margin between
the levels that cause harm in animals and those that
people could potentially ingest from canned foods has
been inadequately addressed by the FDA to date."
Consumer Reports' food-safety scientists recommend daily
safe exposure levels to be set at 0.0024 micrograms per
kilogram of body weight per day. The FDA could have a
finalized review of BPA as early as this fall.