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Report Reveals 67% of Cans Contain BPA; Campbell Soup, Del Monte to Switch Packaging

Image Credit: Reuters/Gary Cameron

A report released today by six non-profit organizations found that 67 percent of nearly 200 tested food can linings contained Bisphenol A (BPA). The report also identified the replacement materials and to what extent their safety has been studied. Ahead of the report’s release, both Campbell Soup Co. and Del Monte Foods announced plans to switch to BPA-free packaging.

BPA is used to stiffen plastics and is used in metal can coating to protect food from direct contact with metal surfaces. The report authors point to evidence that BPA is an endocrine-disrupting chemical that negatively impacts our hormonal systems, may contribute to a host of harmful health effects including breast and colon cancer, and has demonstrated the capacity to migrate into food and then into people.

On Monday, Campbell Soup said it would completely switch to cans that do not use BPA for their linings in the United States and Canada by the middle of 2017. The company began using cans with linings made from acrylic or polyester materials in March and will continue to introduce the new linings across all varieties of Campbell’s soups and gravies, Swanson broth and SpaghettiO’s pasta through 2017. Campbell Soup is on track to have 75 percent of its soup portfolio in non-BPA lined cans by December.

On Tuesday, Del Monte announced it would convert to non-BPA packaging beginning with its fresh pack production in 2016, which begins in May and runs through October. All Del Monte brand fruit and tomato products, as well as nearly 100 percent of vegetable products will be switched to non-BPA linings.

Del Monte’s announcement also included news that the company will be offering more non-GMO options. The company asserted that the fruits, vegetables and tomatoes in their products have always been non-GMO, but it has traditionally sourced some added ingredients for sweeteners or flavorings from genetically modified crops such as corn and soybeans. These added ingredients in all Del Monte vegetables, fruit cups and most tomato products (154 products in total) will be non-GMO by the end of this year. The company noted that 70 of its products have been successfully verified and labeled as non-GMO, and that it will continue to ensure all its non-GMO offerings are clearly labeled. Despite that several companies – including Campbell Soup, General Mills, Mars, ConAgra, and Kellogg – have recently made announcements regarding nationwide labeling for products which do contain GMOs, Del Monte made no such statement in its press release.

“These actions reflect our ongoing commitment to providing high quality fruit, vegetables and tomatoes, and meeting evolving consumer preferences. Our non-GMO and non-BPA milestones are the direct result of great dedication and major contributions from many people inside Del Monte as well as our suppliers and other partners,” said Nils Lommerin, the Chief Executive Officer for Del Monte Foods.

The new report, Buyer Beware: Toxic BPA & Regrettable Substitutes in the Linings of Canned Food, revealed that 100 percent of the Campbell’s products sampled (15 of 15) contained BPA-based epoxy, and 71 percent of the Del Monte cans sampled (10 of 14) tested positive for BPA-epoxy resins. 50 percent of sampled cans from General Mills (6 of 12, including Progresso) and 62 percent of private-label or generic brands (71 of 114) tested positive. The latter group included 62 percent of products from Kroger (13 of 21), and 50 percent of products from Albertsons (including Randalls and Safeway), 7 of the 8 samples from Walmart, and 5 of the 5 samples from Target. Other retailers included Dollar General, Dollar Tree (including Family Dollar), Gordon Food Service, Loblaws, Meijer, Publix, and Trader Joe’s.

Amy’s Kitchen, Annie’s Homegrown (recently acquired by General Mills), Hain Celestial Group, and ConAgra have fully transitioned away from BPA and have disclosed the BPA alternatives that they are using, according to the report authors. Eden Foods has eliminated the use of BPA-based epoxy liners in 95 percent of its canned foods.

Several retailers have policies to reduce their use of BPA in food can linings. However, the report authors assert that no retailers have specific timelines for completely eliminating BPA from all canned food products, nor have they conducted transparent assessments of alternative linings. According to the authors, Whole Foods has the strongest policy; the grocer reported that its buyers are currently not accepting any new canned items with BPA in the lining material.

“BPA-free doesn’t mean a can lining is safe, as the substitute could itself be harmful," said Clean Production Action's Beverley Thorpe. "That is why we are asking companies to take the GreenScreen Challenge and work with us to demonstrate the chemical safety of their can liners."

Clean Production Action co-authored the report with the Breast Cancer Fund, Campaign for Healthier Solutions, the Ecology Center, Environmental Defence (Canada), and Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families' Mind the Store campaign.

”While some families are fortunate to have access and means to purchase fresh produce, many communities across America have no choice but to buy canned food lined with toxic BPA,” said Jose Bravo, the coordinator of the Campaign for Healthier Solutions. “Some families, live in a food desert where fresh food simply isn’t available, or they can only afford the cheap food sold at dollar stores. These communities, people of color and low-income families are already exposed to toxic chemicals more frequently and at higher levels than the average American. The use of toxic BPA in canned foods means that families will sit down to a double serving of harmful chemicals.”

Hannah Furlong is an Editorial Assistant for Sustainable Brands, based in Canada. She is researching the circular economy as a Master's student in Sustainability Management at the University of Waterloo and holds a Bachelor's in Environment and Business Co-op. Hannah… [Read more about Hannah Furlong]

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