Bisphenol A (BPA) is an estrogen-like product that is used to harden plastic in packaging such as bottles and cups. More than 50 years BPA is also found in the linings of metal food cans, which helps withstand high sterilization temperatures.
Its safety for use as a food contact material is the topic of fierce debate.
In Europe the discussion ended last year with a statement by the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) which was the latest in a string of opinions delivered by regulatory bodies that backs the view that BPA does not pose a risk to human health at permitted doses.
The BfR said that studies by Stump et al and Ryan et al provided no indications for adverse health effects on neurological development and behaviour. When examining the effects of low dose exposure, the agency said the study by Stump et al failed to find any indications of these through evaluating the dietary administration of the substance.
The BfR was also dismissive of the Ryan study findings relating to oestrogen-sensitive endpoints, describing the matter as “a pivotal issue in the scientific debate”.
Meanwhile, in the USA, new research from a team at Michigan University suggested that exposure to BPA could damage male sperm. However the researchers stressed that the results were preliminary and that further study was necessary.
In August last year as part of its research commitment on BPA, Health Canada released the results of a new survey of BPA exposure levels in a variety of soft drink and beer products. According to industry association North American Metal Packaging Alliance (NAMPA), the results from this latest government survey indicate that foods and beverages packaged in BPA epoxy resin coated metal cans do not pose a health risk.
In the report, Health Canada officials confirm their previous conclusion “that current dietary exposure to BPA through food packaging uses is not expected to pose a health risk to the general population.”
Not withstanding the above, in October last year the Canadian Health and Environment Ministries placed the chemical formally in Schedule 1 of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 (CEPA 1999).
Canada’ s announcement is the culmination of two year’s deliberations and differs markedly from the recent opinion from the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) which dismissed scientific concerns raised recently in scores of studies – including BPA’s link with neuro-developmental and behavioural effects. The European body said it had found no scientific evidence that would lead it to recommend altering the tolerable daily intake (TDI) of the chemical.
But the Canadian Government said its actions had been based on “robust and relevant scientific evidence”. “Our science indicated that Bisphenol A may be harmful to both human health and the environment and we were the first country to take bold action in the interest of Canadians,” said Leona Aglukkaq, Minister of Health.
Whatever the position taken by government agencies it is clear that BPA will not leave the discussion and uncertainty of the consumer. If scientists can’t agree about the harmfulness of BPA, what is the consumer supposed to do. This will culminate in a ‘consumer protest’ by avoiding to buy products packed in BPA-containing packages.
Eden Foods, is the first company addressing the BPA controversy, when they announced the introduction of protective amber glass jars for organic crushed tomatoes and sauces, previously packed in metal cans. The driving force at Eden Foods for these amber glass jars of tomatoes was the avoidance of bisphenol-A (BPA) in high acid food cans, and failure of the can manufacturers to make BPA free cans for tomatoes.
They are the only tomatoes in the USA. packed in amber glass, protecting flavour and nutrients from light damage. Light causes discoloration and off-flavour through chemical change in food. Photo-oxidation (light damage) is systemic in food stores where fluorescent lighting, in particular, reduces food quality. Amber glass is difficult to get and more costly, but it best protects food. Amber glass is also free of the endocrine disrupter chemical bisphenol-A (BPA).
TreeHugger did put the correct question in front of Eden Foods. What about those lids? They emailed Eden Foods and got a quick response, which I repeat in full:
A search for a lid for our glass jars again confirmed ‘there’s no such thing as a perfect food package.’ Regardless, we found the best there is.
The inside of the twist caps has two coats of sealer between the food and the metal of the cap. The first applied coating has BPA present. The second protective sealant does not, isolating the first coating from contact with the jar’s contents.
Potential for migration of BPA is reduced by the following:
1. An additional protective vinyl base overcoat facing the food, isolating the epoxy BPA containing coating. The coating containing BPA can never be in contact with the food.
2. The cap’s inner surface is separated from the food by an area of air/vacuum.
3. The surface area exposed to the food is substantially less for a twist cap than for canned goods.
Today’s most stringent regulations for food safety is in the European Union where these twist caps have been tested as safe in regards to BPA for use on food products. Currently, we are told, there is no known viable alternative to BPA based epoxy coatings that provides the same level of corrosion resistance and is as safe. We continually push our cap suppliers to develop BPA free constructed caps that will deliver required corrosion resistance, shelf life, and safety.
So while there is BPA present in the lid, they isolate it and separated it from the food with a vinyl layer. (source: The TreeHugger)
Note: We talk here about high-acid foods (tomatoes). BPA-free cans for low-acid foods are available, but they cost approximately 2.2 USDcents more (14%) than cans with standard BPA epoxy liners.
Although Eden Foods’ answer in relation of the lids is open and honest, there is one little thing which doesn’t seem to be correct. Eden Foods claims, that “there is no known viable alternative to BPA based epoxy coatings that provides the same level of corrosion resistance and is as safe”.
However, Design Analysis Inc, of Jacksonville, Florida, claims that its PolyKoat thermoplastic polyester coating is free of all volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and is a greener alternative to competitive food can linings. It can be attached directly onto a range of hot and cold-rolled metal packaging substrates; galvanised and tin-free steel and aluminium.
The coating has full food contact status and regulatory approval from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), with confirmation of Canadian and European compliances expected late last year. Tests have proved it to be a stable coating that is highly resistant to chemicals and foodstuffs. Although being tough, it has very good formability and processability features.
It is not clear whether PolyKoat is suitable for high-acid foodstuffs, like tomatoes. But certainly it is a beginning in a process to definitely replace BPA. A process in which the consumers rather than food safety agencies may have the final say on the substance with their purchasing choices by opting more and more for BPA-free materials.