What is BPA and why is it in my tomato sauce?

Today is food day, and the official inaugural day of my website and blog. I have a lot to get done today, but checked the news and found one more study about the harmful effects of the plastic BPA, which stands for bisphenol-A. It is a hormone like substance, and studies suggest it may be associated with a variety of problems including diabetes, reproductive problems, neurological problems and cancer. Many scientists consider it to be a suspect chemical, and Canada has now declared it to be a toxic substance,  The FDA considers it to be a substance of concern for fetuses, infants and young children. I personally don’t want BPA in my body, and it has been suggested that most Americans have higher blood levels than what is recommended.

If you buy foods packaged in plastic, which I hope you are limiting, avoid foods with the 3 and 7 recycling number on them as they are most likely to contain BPA.

In the process of researching foods for my “Mediterranean Pantry” page, I began to wonder about canned foods. Canned beans and tomatoes, and canned salmon, seemed like healthy foods that are reasonably sustainable in their methods of production. But canned goods often contain BPA in their liners, and studies have shown that a lot of it can leach into the food. Could I find any brands that did not contain BPA? You would think maybe organic brands, right? The answer was not that simple.

In the end, this is what I determined: at this time there is no canned salmon that is BPA free. Some manufacturers are working toward that and I will keep you updated.

Canned tomatoes are very acidic, and it has been difficult to find an alternative to BPA. The only manufacturer who is using a BPA free can is Muir Glen, and they just started using it this year. So anything on the store shelves is likely to be in last year’s can and contain BPA. Any sauces made with tomato would similarly be canned in BPA.

I could find no California tomatoes in glass jars, which would of course be the best option. Bottled sauces are often made with tomatoes that were previously in cans so I am not sure that is an improvement. After reading all this I decided to peel and freeze a bunch of my tomatoes this year in jars and plastic zip-lock bags (I checked, they do not have BPA). I also took to canning my tomatoes again. Remember if you are canning tomatoes, they are a borderline acidic food and you should follow approved recipes for canning them and add the acid ingredients such as lemon juice or citric acid in the amounts recommended to avoid botulism. I use the UC Davis publication download on preserving tomatoes at this link for recipes.

As for any other canned goods, Eden foods, which is an organic brand, packs everything except tomato products in cans that are not lined with BPA.

When I was researching all of this, it gave me a headache and confused me and I am a professional dietitian.  I can’t imagine the lay person figuring all of this out. I decided it was just one more reason skip the plastic and cans altogether and eat fresh, local, in season California grown foods whenever possible.

© 2015. Dayna Green-Burgeson RD, CDE. All Rights Reserved.


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