Next time you pick up a can of chicken noodle soup or baked beans, ask yourself: Will your supper come with a side of harmful chemicals?
Even if you shop for organic vegetables grown without pesticides, and grass-fed beef raised without antibiotics, canned foods could introduce a suspect chemical into your body.
We're talking about Bisphenol A—better known by its stage name, BPA. This compound has been used for decades in plastic manufacturing and the lining of canned goods.
The problem is, it doesn't stay in the lining—BPA can actually leach into your food. And we're not just talking about a few cans here: A recent study conducted by the Environmental Working Group revealed that nearly a third of canned food brands use BPA in all of their products, and another 14 percent use the chemical in at least some of their products.
Though the Food and Drug Administration hasn't come out against BPA, it also no longer considers this chemical "safe." Few human studies have been comprehensively able to show the longterm effects of BPA, but many believe it could disrupt the production of hormones, cause behavioral problems, increase your risk of cancer and heart disease, and even act as a synthetic version of estrogen.
As if that wasn't enough reason to be wary, here's another: Most of us already have BPA in our bodies. It's gotten so bad that one CDC study was able to detect BPA in urine samples from 93 percent of people tested.
But there are a few canned food companies dedicated to producing BPA-free canned goods—although these companies make up just 12 percent.
The EWG report also hammered the lack of oversight in the canned food industry. Without any sort of standards or review, manufacturers can basically claim whatever they want on their packaging. Plus, as more and more brands look for alternatives to BPA linings, a regulatory agency is needed to make sure any new materials don't come with any adverse health effects of their own.
In the absence of government-controlled labeling, consumers have to take matters into their own hands. The easiest way to avoid this concerning chemical? Shop for BPA-free foods on Thrive Market, or rely on the brands EWG highlighted for using safe packaging. Muir Glen, Amy's, Bionaturae, and Westbrae Natural all made the cut.
Illustration by Karley Koenig