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Originally published August 23 2015

ConAgra to remove feminizing BPA chemicals from food cans

by David Gutierrez, staff writer

(NaturalNews) Food giant ConAgra has announced that all cans containing its products will now be free of the toxic chemical bisphenol A (BPA). The change applies to all canned food products made in U.S. or Canadian factories after July 30.

"In response to our consumers' desire for alternate coatings for the food they eat, we have been working for several years to identify, test, qualify and commercialize non-BPA coatings that they can trust," said Wes Wasson, ConAgra's senior director of packaging technology and cost optimization.

ConAgra announced that it is replacing BPA with linings made from polyester or acrylic. Some desserts and cooking sprays will instead use a laminated steel liner.

Nestle USA has also announced its intention to remove BPA from all of its U.S. canned products, but the company said that the transition would not be completed until some time next year.

BPA mimics estrogen activity

Until a few years ago, nearly 100 percent of canned food and beverages sold in the United States were lined with a resin made from BPA to prevent the food from reacting with the metal. This lining not only prevents the taste of food from being modified by the metal, but it also prevents chemical reactions that can cause food to spoil or cans to explode.

BPA is a ubiquitous industrial chemical used in everything from clear plastic water bottles to the thermal paper used to print receipts. Despite this abundance of uses, studies have shown that canned foods and beverages are one of the major sources of human exposure. This is because BPA leaches freely from can linings into food and canned foods are so widely consumed.

Studies have conclusively established that BPA mimics the activity of the hormone estrogen in the body. BPA exposure has been linked with a variety of health problems including cancer, diabetes, heart disease and neurobehavioral changes. It is thought to be particularly dangerous to children and pregnant women.

Replacements not necessarily safe

While the move away from BPA by giant companies might seem to be good news, food safety experts have raised concerns that BPA might be replaced by other chemicals with untested health effects. Indeed, numerous studies have now demonstrated that the closely-related chemical BPS, used in many "BPA-free" plastic bottles, also acts as an estrogen mimic in the body. The chemical also appears to cause hyperactivity and cardiac arrhythmia. Alarmingly, its effects seem to be even more potent than BPA.

Most companies shifting away from BPA are not publicizing which chemicals they are using to replace it, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) warned in a report published on June 3. In an analysis of 252 canned food brands produced by 119 separate companies, EWG found that only 13 of the brands described their BPA alternatives in any way. This secrecy is dangerous, the organization said, because it makes it harder to conduct safety testing on these substances.

The alternatives that have been described are a diverse group of chemicals, including vinyl, polyester, modified polymers, epoxies, epoxy-based lacquers, titanium dioxide-based linings, and oleoresins used alone or in combination with other chemicals.

In the rush to assure the public that BPA is being phased out, food companies are exposing consumers to a new, untested cocktail of potentially harmful substances.

Given the uncertain safety profiles of BPA alternatives, EWG still recommends that consumers limit their intake of canned foods.

Companies have also continued to be secretive not just about alternatives, but also about whether they use BPA at all, EWG found. An astonishing 109 brands from 54 companies neglected to specify whether they used BPA.

EWG is also urging the government to establish a mandatory safety limit for the BPA content in canned food of 1 part per billion.

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