BPA, the controversial substance that caused a panic among parents, and has been excluded in the manufacture of plastic baby bottles, has been found in canned food marketed for children.
Breast Cancer Fund researchers tested for bisphenol A (BPA) in six products specifically marketed to children. Included in the list were such popular kid-targeted meals as Campbell’s “Disney Princess” soup with “shaped pasta with chicken in chicken broth” and Annie’s Homegrown certified organic “Cheesy Ravioli.”
Connie Engel, Science Education Coordinator at the Breast Cancer Fund, said researchers looked at canned products that “were specifically marketed to kids: either ones with pictures of favorite cartoon characters or labels that said something about kids. The levels we found in these canned foods were a little higher than those previously found in baby bottles and water bottles.”
Because the Food and Drug Administration has concerns about the potential effects of BPA on the brain, behavior and prostrate glands of fetuses, infants and children, it has called for more research on the substance. .
BPA is in the resin that manufactures use to coat the inside of all canned products. The resin keeps the metal from leaching out into the foods, but the resin itself can leach into the food.
“Every advance usually has benefits and tradeoffs,” explained Thomas Burke, a professor and associate dean at the Johns Hopkins University School of Public Health. “For example, many kids of my generation got cuts from broken glass at the beach. Plastic bottles probably reduced the likelihood of that happening. But they were also a source of BPA.”
Scientists know that high levels of BPA can cause serious health problems in lab animals. But what they are uncertain about is what low levels do to humans. Not every substance that causes cancer or other serious illnesses in animals translates to humans. But of course, sometimes they do.
Joe Braun, a research fellow at the Harvard School of Public Health, notes that “Historically we didn’t consider a child to be suffering from lead poisoning until he showed up in the hospital with encephalopathy and seizures, Now we know much lower exposures can have a big impact.”
Neither Braun nor Burke was ready to warn parents off canned goods altogether and said parents shouldn’t be alarmed at the BPA their kids may have already consumed.
The good thing about BPA is that it doesn’t seem to accumulate in your system permanently, Burke said. “We all have it in our bodies,” he explained. “But if you stop exposure, the levels go down — a lot faster than some of the pesticides, or lead, or mercury.”
BPA is found in a remarkable amount of products that people use daily, such as plastics, CDs – DVDs, household electronics, dental sealants and money.
Although completely eliminating exposure to BPA may not be possible, there are products that have very low levels. Plastic food containers with the #7 on the bottom may contain higher levels of BPA. Plastics with the recycling labels #1, #2 and #4 on the bottom are safer choices and do not contain BPA.
Find baby bottles in glass versions, or those made from the safer plastics including polyamine, polypropylene and polyethylene. Soft or cloudy-colored plastic does not contain BPA. Bottles used to pump and store expressed breast milk by the brand Medela are also labeled BPA-free.
Canned beverages appear to contain less BPA residues, while canned pasta and soups contain the highest levels. Rinsing canned fruit or vegetables with water prior to heating and serving could lessen BPA ingestion.