March 30, 2016 2:06 pm
Updated: March 30, 2016 5:58 pm

Report sounds alarm over discovery of BPA in Canadian canned food

WATCH: A new study finds BPA in high number of food cans sold in Canada. Several organizations are calling on the government to tighten restrictions. Christina Stevens reports.

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BPA — a chemical that’s been linked to breast and prostate cancers, infertility and hyperactivity in children — has been found in over 80 per cent of food cans tested in Canada.

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Bisphenol A, as it’s officially called, was previously banned by the Canadian government from baby bottles and sippy cups for the possible health effects it can have on the brains of infants and kids.

On Wednesday, a North American report revealed the extent to which many companies still use the substance in liners to seal and preserve canned food.

Close to 200 cans were tested across the continent, 21 of which were selected from the shelves of three popular retailers in Canada: Walmart, Loblaws and Sobeys. Seventeen of them were found to have BPA in the lid lining, according to Maggie MacDonald, the Toxics Program Manager with Environmental Defence. The Canadian group contributed to the report.

“What we found is that products that contained meat in the can or chicken broth tended more frequently to be the ones that were lined with BPA.”

She claims there’s no proven amount of BPA that is known to be safe and that research has shown it can seep into canned food from the lid lining. That’s thought to be the main concern to come out of the report’s findings, especially since many Canadians rely on canned food.

“We don’t want to frighten people but we want to give them a sense that it’s important to take steps to reduce your exposure when you can,” MacDonald said.

This can include buying tomatoes in glass containers instead of cans or even forgoing a receipt, she added, as thermal paper has been linked to BPA as well.

READ MORE: Shopping receipts might increase exposure to BPA chemical

The Canadian cans that were tested (listed in their entirety below) included chickpeas, green beans, corn niblets, red kidney beans, chicken broth, cranberry sauce, pumpkin and coconut milk. The italicized products didn’t contain BPA.

Walmart 

  • Unico (Chick Peas)
  • Great Value (Dark Red Kidney Beans)
  • Campbell’s (Chicken Broth)
  • Great Value (Cut Green Beans)
  • Aroy-D (Coconut Milk)
  • E.D. Smith (Pure Pumpkin) – oleoresin, which is considered an acceptable BPA alternative, was detected instead 
  • Great Value (Cranberry Sauce – whole berry)

Loblaws 

  • President Choice (Chickpeas) – oleoresin, which is considered an acceptable BPA alternative, was detected instead 
  • Del Monte (Cut green beans) – polyester, which is another chemical of concern, was detected
  • President Choice (Cut green beans)
  • Thai Kitchen (Coconut milk)
  • Green Giant (Corn niblets) – PVC, which is another chemical of concern, was detected
  • No Name (Chicken broth)
  • No Name (Pumpkin Pure)
  • No Name (Cranberry Sauce – whole berry)

FreschCo. (Sobey’s)

  • NuPak (Red Kidney Beans)
  • Compliments – Balance (French-style cut green beans)
  • Compliments (Chicken Broth – condensed soup)
  • Globe Brand (Coconut milk)
  • S!gnal (Cream style corn)
  • Ocean Spray (Cranberry sauce – whole berry)

How to limit your exposure to BPA

  • Seek out BPA-free products. More and more BPA-free products have come to market. Look for products labeled as BPA-free. If a product isn’t labeled, keep in mind that some, but not all, plastics marked with recycle codes 3 or 7 may be made with BPA.
  • Cut back on cans. Reduce your use of canned foods since most cans are lined with BPA-containing resin.
  • Avoid heat. The National Institutes of Health advises against microwaving polycarbonate plastics or putting them in the dishwasher, because the plastic may break down over time and allow BPA to leach into foods.
  • Use alternatives. Use glass, porcelain or stainless steel containers for hot foods and liquids instead of plastic containers.

(Source: Mayo Clinic)

WATCH: Is BPA-free plastic safe for you?

MacDonald would like to see the federal government pull BPA from food cans sold here, and research safer BPA-alternatives which she believes oleoresin to be.

“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.”

Campbell Soup announced on Tuesday that it aims to make its cans BPA-free by mid-2017. Del Monte made a similar pledge this week for its product line.

Health Canada sent Global News the following response when asked about the report:

“At the current level found in the Canadian food supply, BPA exposure from food packaging does not pose a health risk to any segment of the Canadian population,” wrote spokesperson André Gagnon.

“Health Canada, however, continues to support efforts by the food industry to develop alternative packaging materials to be used in place of BPA. Specifically, Health Canada worked with industry to protect the health and safety of infants and young children by limiting use of BPA in food packaging applications targeting these populations. Since 2014, all liquid infant formula products sold in Canada have been packaged in containers manufactured without BPA.

“Recently, Health Canada conducted studies investigating the levels of BPA in canned food. The first study was published in 2015. … The second study specifically examined the levels in canned fish samples.

“While some BPA was detected in all the canned food products, the position of Health Canada, the United States Food and Drug Administration (US FDA) and the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) is that current exposures to BPA do not represent a health concern.”

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