Why is there a push to rid food products of BPA?
BPA is an endocrine-disrupting chemical. Apart from traditional risk factors (i.e. family history, sedentary lifestyle, and a standard American diet), exposure to environmental toxicants like endocrine-disrupting chemicals will interfere with normal hormonal function (Magliano & Lyons, 2013).
Endocrine-disrupting chemicals like BPA are important factors in our global obesity and diabetes epidemic (Longnecker & Daniels, 2001).
In a systematic review of a large body of cross-sectional studies showed people with higher urinary BPA concentrations are more likely to gain excess weight, have diabetes, and high blood pressure vs. those with lower BPA concentrations (Rancière et al., 2015).
Another cross-sectional study by Adesman & Rosen (2017) showed 9.5 million formula-fed children exposed to BPA in formula cans or baby bottles had a 5-fold increased odds of developing attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) compared to breastfed infants. Five years later, this same study showed that when BPA linings were used less often, there was no association between being fed formula cans and developing ADHD.
Increasing evidence is mounting that BPA is a harmful polymer. Because of the public pressure to remove BPA from food-containing products, Kroger’s grocery chain, for example, has made a commitment to eliminate BPA from their products, claiming, “by 2017, we had converted 92% of applicable Our Brands canned goods to Non-BPA liners,” which includes their organic brand.
Liao & Kannan (2011) question whether or not we should consume food cooked on BPA paper products, as BPA migration into food during cooking greatly accelerates with heat.
If my can is “BPA-free,” then what chemical compound is replacing it and is that safer?
This is actually a lot tougher to find out than I had originally thought. The answers aren’t always clear. In checking out Native Forest brand (parent company Edward & Sons), I found a letter to their customers dated January 2017. They state their products meet FDA regulations and that random inventory was tested and found to be BPA-free.
Yet, no mention of what replaced BPA was documented.
It appears Tetra Pak may be an option for a separate type of packaging, as well as bisphenol S (BPS). BPS is also found in paper from receipts—receipts you may get at the grocery store itemizing your BPA-containing canned goods. Thayer et al. (2016) conducted a small study and found BPS compounds in the urine of cashiers. This is not surprising considering how easily BPA appears to be absorbed. After all, bisphenols are structurally similar to one another, so absorption likely occurs byway of similar processes.
In sum, “BPA-free” is not synonymous with bisphenol-free. Other bisphenols are often substituted for BPA, which may or may not act in a similar way and may or may not be less harmful. While Tetra pak is an alternative option, much less is known about it, and it could end up being worse.
We just don’t have the research yet.
Shop for fresh produce as the primary item you purchase at the grocery store. Limit purchasing packaged foods. You will make great strides for your health in the long run.
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