Friday, September 3, 2010


If you’re an environmentalist worth your salt, you know the apocalypse is around the corner. It could be global warming, colony collapse, oceanic dead zones or genetically-modified frankenfish, but something’s gonna get us before long. Naturally you’ve stockpiled canned foods in your basement, along with a few guns in case someone tries to steal your solar panels. But wait one (organic) cotton-pickin’ minute here. Are you sure those canned foods will really see you through the devastation to come? Or will they be wreaking devastation of their own, this time on your endocrine system?


Turns out most cans have an epoxy liner containing bisphenol-A (BPA), an estrogen-mimicking chemical linked to reproductive harm, alterations in behavior and brain development, increased risk of prostate and breast cancer, diabetes, and heart disease, and an earlier onset of puberty. That would be okay if the BPA stayed in the liner, but in May 2010, the National Work Group for Safe Markets tested 50 cans of food, including fish, fruit, vegetables, soups, and soda, and found BPA in 92 percent of them. The amounts varied from as few as six parts per billion to as many as 1,140 parts per billion, with an average of 77.36 ppb. The EPA’s safe level is 50 parts per billion. A December 2009 Consumer Reports study had similar results.


Some companies are beginning to replace their can linings with other compounds, but so far the pickings are pretty slim. Eden Organics hasn’t used BPA in its canned beans for ten years, and Native Forest has BPA-free canned veggies and coconut milk. Trader Joe’s canned fish and meats are BPA free, as is Vital Choice and several other brands of canned seafood. (You can find a complete – but rather short -- list of BPA-free canned foods here.)

If the food you want isn’t available in BPA-free cans, your best bet is to start preserving your own. That means you’ll need to get yourself some BPA-free canning lids, which can be obtained here or here. Or, if you’re intimidated by home-canning, use your freezer to preserve fresh tomatoes and other veggies.