Research conducted by the Breast Cancer Fund has found harmful levels of Bisphenol A (BPA) in a number of popular canned products.
The study by the US organization found many of the canned goods commonly used over Thanksgiving and Christmas, including gravy, carnation milk, corn, beans and cranberry sauce, contain potentially damaging levels of BPA.
“Single servings of almost half of the products tested had levels of BPA comparable to levels that laboratory studies have linked to adverse health effects,” the report said.
Jeanne Rizzo, president and chief executive of the Breast Cancer Fund said families should be able to feel safe when eating festive meals.
"How many more Thanksgivings will families have to worry about this uninvited guest before manufacturers finally decide to take it out of cans?”
BPA is used to make the epoxy-resin linings of metal food cans which forms a barrier between the metal and the food which helps to prevent bacterial contamination.’
Problems can arise when the toxic chemical leaches from the resin and make its way into food.
In Laboratory studies, BPA has been linked to adverse health effects inclusing breast and prostate cancer, infertility, early puberty in girls, type-2 diabetes, obesity and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and is particularly damaging to young children.
In September BPA was found in a variety of soups and foods marketed to children, prompting calls to have the chemical banned entirely.
Last year, a similar study by consumer watchdog CHOICE found 33 of the 38 products they tested contained BPA and only one serving of 29 of contained a dose of BPA exceeding safe daily level of exposure for a 70kg adult.
In July 2010, the Australian government introduced a voluntary deal with major retailers to phase out BPA in baby bottles and tinned foods.
Food Standards Australia and New Zealand monitors the presence and regulation of BPA in Australia and says studies have shown there are some safe levels of the substance.
“The internationally established safe level, called the Tolerable Daily Intake (TDI), for BPA is 0.05 mg per kilogram of body weight per day,” it says.
“The TDI is an estimate of the amount of a substance in food that can be ingested daily over a lifetime without appreciable health risk.
“It is based on animal studies and incorporates a safety factor which allows scientists to calculate a safe level of consumption for humans.”
The other important factor, according to FSANZ, is that the amount of BPA a person would have to ingest for it to be dangerous is quite high.
“A nine month old baby weighing 9 kg would have to eat more than 1 kg of canned baby custard containing BPA every day to reach the TDI, assuming that the custard contained the highest level of BPA found (420 parts per billion) in a recent survey by CHOICE,” FSANZ states.
While some levels of exposure to the chemical may be safe, the problem is the lack of information declared by companies about BPA in its products.
"Consumers have no way of assessing BPA levels just by looking at cans on supermarket shelves," Gretchen Lee Salter, policy manager at the Breast Cancer Fund said.
"The findings of this report highlight the urgent need to remove BPA from food packaging so that shoppers can be confident that the food they are purchasing is safe for their families—not only on Thanksgiving, but every day."
William Goodson, M.D., a breast cancer surgeon and senior clinical research scientist at California Pacific Medical Center Research Institute, published a study in September showing BPA causes non-cancerous cells to grow and survive like cancer cells.
"We know from recent research that a BPA meal creates a spike of this estrogenic chemical in the blood," he said.
"Natural hormones work by spikes, so this is exactly what you don’t want, especially in young kids, who shouldn’t have any estrogenic spikes at all."
Consumers have sent out 50,000 letters to canned food manufacturers urging them to get BPA out of canned foods and replaced with a safer alternative, as part of it’s the Breast Cancer Fund’s Cans Not Cancer campaign,
A number of food manufacturers have heeded the advice, including General Mills and Nestle, who have announced progress on alternatives to BPA in canned foods.
The Breast Cancer Fund wants regulation to make it mandatory for companies to disclose BPA levels in products.