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Thursday, November 5, 2009

Pantry Dangers: Are Canned Foods Silent Killers?

Canned foods are a modern day convenience that many busy households would be lost without.  Even our favorite organic options are available in simple packaging, ready to heat up and serve.  Canned convenience ensures a healthy, well-balanced meal on rushed weeknights and can cut recipe times in half - but recent reports have discovered that our favorite shortcuts in the kitchen may be causing more harm than they're worth.
BPA in Cans
The dangers of BPA (Bisphenol A) are already known - increased risks of cancer, reproductive abnormalities, and risks of other diseases including diabetes and heart problems.  Research has shown that many plastic containers can transfer the chemical into foods and drinks, allowing it to be ingested and enter the blood stream. 
Consumer Reports has conducted tests on canned foods for the presence of BPA as well - and the results are disturbing.  19 different brands of canned vegetables, soups, juices, and tuna were examined and almost all of the cans contained at least some amount of the dangerous chemical - including organic varieties, as well as cans labeled as 'BPA-free'.
The Dangers
While a 'safe level' of BPA hasn't been determined by the FDA, animal studies have shown ill effects in exposure to 2.4 micrograms per kilogram of body weight per day.  Experts suggest daily levels over .0024 micrograms based on weight could be dangerous to humans.
The average can of green beans from the tests conducted yielded an average of 123.5 parts per billion of BPA.  A 165-pound adult would ingest about 80 times the recommended 'safe level' of BPA from a single serving of these veggies - a level that could be detrimental to a child, especially children eating several servings of canned foods and juices per day.
What Can You Do?
Of course, fresh is always best for you, your family, and the planet.  Visit your local farmers' market or plant your own garden for fresh, healthy fruits and vegetables.  When you have to shop for packaged foods, there are steps you can take to minimize the risks:
  • Opt for plastic-packaged food over cans.  Tests found lower levels of BPA in most plastic pouches and containers, with the exception of Chef-Boyardee's microwaveable containers with metal peel-off lids.
  • Urge state and federal officials to enact legislation that eliminates the use of BPA in all products that come in contact with food.   
  • Contact the companies that package your foods and  ask them to step up as leaders to protect the health of consumers.  Change.org has already started a petition to leading canned soup manufacturer, Campbell's, requesting their initiative in eliminating BPA in canned foods.

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