We should all know what we are putting in our bodies, especially when it comes to the food we make for our families. Unfortunately, many of us are not aware that some of the most common food items in your pantry could contain a toxic chemical hiding in the packaging.
Bisphenol A, or BPA, is commonly used in the lining of canned foods, which can leach out and migrate into the food we eat. In fact, food is our No. 1 source of exposure to this hormone-disrupting chemical. Scientists are sounding the alarm that even low levels of BPA may be harmful to our health.
A new study found the chemical is still present in some canned foods sold at grocery stores right here in the heart of Idaho.
I know this for a fact because I recently bought three cans of food from an area grocery store — green beans, diced tomatoes and black beans — and sent them to a nonprofit lab for testing. I hoped the results would come back negative for BPA, but sadly they didn’t.
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Thankfully, it’s not all bad news. Two of the cans, the green beans and diced tomatoes, did not contain BPA, but the third can, the black beans, did. That’s a little better than the national average: 40 percent of cans tested by the Center for Environmental Health contained the toxicant. That’s a significant improvement compared to just one year ago. A 2016 report found 67 percent of cans contained BPA.
In other words, grocery retailers and brands are moving in the right direction.
Yet there is still work to be done. Forty percent is still too high, especially for a chemical that can interfere with and disrupt the body’s natural hormones and as a result cause serious health problems. BPA can cause birth defects and has been linked to breast cancer, prostate cancer and diabetes.
There is growing momentum for grocery chains to quit selling canned food that contains BPA. That’s great news. But when I buy three cans of food and one has BPA in it, it’s hard to find a lot of comfort.
As it is right now, a grocery shopper cannot tell which cans have BPA and which ones don’t. I certainly couldn’t tell when I bought those three cans. I think nearly all of us would appreciate the knowledge that toxic chemicals are not hiding in our foods. After all, don’t we have a right to know?
There’s only one way to do it — grocery chains and food brands phasing BPA out of all canned foods. It’s an achievable goal that will help satisfy consumers like me shopping for safe and healthy food for my family.
Kate Thorpe is deputy director of Conservation Voters for Idaho, which is dedicated to protecting public land and environmental health, and works to elect pro-conservation candidates from both parties.