BPA – A Canalily Investigation


In past posts I have drawn attention to concerns about Bisphenol-A. Apparently it is an endocrine disruptor that mimics oestrogen in the body. If you’ve been with me up to now (come on, keep up!) you will know that, in the context of breast cancer, this is not a good thing.

I have read that the lining of tins is made of plastic and known to leach Bisphenol-A. In general, plastic will release far more chemicals when heated. Tins of food are heated to high temperatures when they are sealed, in order to kill bacteria.

In August 2009 a group of French Senators tabled a bill that proposed to ban BPA in all food containers. The proposal was watered down and in June this year they approved a proposition to ban BPA in babies’ bottles. Yes, that’s right, BPA is in babies’ bottles and no, I didn’t know that either.

In March the Danish government banned BPA in all materials that are in contact with food intended for children aged 0-3.

Last month the Canadian Government declared Bisphenol-A to be toxic.

Last week the European Union banned it from babies’ bottles. The move has been greeted with a great deal of moaning from the plastics industry.

Surely what is not good for babies is also not good for me?

***

From:      Canalily

Subject:   Tinned Foods

To:          Sainsburys, Waitrose, Tesco, Marks & Spencer, Coles, Woolworth’s

Dear Madam or Sir,

As a breast cancer survivor I am increasingly concerned about the leaching of possible endocrine disruptors into food. It has come to my attention that the plastic linings of food tins may contain Bisphenol-A.

Unfortunately, there is no way to tell if the tin is lined with plastic until one opens it.

Would you be so kind as to send me a list of the foods that you sell in unlined tins?

With kind regards

Canalily

From:      ASDA

Subject:   Tinned Foods

To:          Canalily

Hello Lily,

Thanks for contacting us.

I understand your concerns about Bisphenol A in food as you have survived breast cancer.

However, I am unable to provide you with a list of foods because of the volume of products we sell.

If you are worried about any particular food please let me know and I will speak with the technical team about it.

Once again, thanks for contacting us and if I can be of further assistance, please do not hesitate to get in touch.

Kind regards

ASDA Service Team

Am I understanding this right – Asda sell so many products that they don’t have time to keep up with the safety of what’s in them?

From:      Sainsbury’s

Subject:   Tinned Foods

To:          Canalily

Dear Lily,

Thanks for your email. I can understand your concerns about Bisphenol-A, especially in the circumstances.  I hope you are keeping well now.

I’ve spoken to my colleague and I’ve not been able to get a list for you.  We are aware of the potential health issues but I can assure you that we do follow guidance issued by the FSA.  I’m sorry I can’t give you any more information at this time. If you require information about specific products please call 0800636262 with the barcode and we will be happy to assist you.

We’re grateful to you for taking the time to contact us, and look forward to seeing you in store soon.

Kind regards

Customer Manager

From:      Marks & Spencer

Subject:   Tinned Foods

To:          Canalily

Dear Ms Canalily

Thank you for taking the time to contact us with your concerns over our food packaging.

Bisphenol-a is a chemical that M&S have been monitoring for a number of years.  We would like to assure you that Bisphenol-a is not used in all plastics as indicated in your email.  In fact there are very few instances where bisphenol-a is used, which is often misrepresented by the media.  It has been known for the media to have to retract statements they make on this subject, certainly this was the case in 2008 when the media reported, incorrectly, that the chemical was used in HDPE plastics (milk bottles).

Marks and Spencer use four main plastic types (PET, PP, PE and small amounts of PS) and we can confirm that the chemical is not present in these plastics.

The areas where the chemical are used are poly-carbonates (the material that baby bottles are made from). Its other main area of use in the food packaging is within the plastic coating on the inside of grocery cans.

We have independently reviewed all the experimentation on the research carried out to date and we can conclude that none of this work is able to form any direct link to human health effects.  Our own studies are backed up by all the main food regularity bodies (FDA, EFSA, FSA), who have concluded that the chemical does not present a concern to human health. 

Where we know the chemical to be used, we also know that it is food safe and there is no current technological alternative that can be used.  We monitor the chemicals use and carry out random independent testing on the levels found in food and to this date we have not had a positive result.  In other words, where the chemical is used in can linings, it has not then be found to actually migrate into food.

As the chemical continues to be of concern to the public, we are of course working with the can manufacturers and chemical companies to reduce and ideally replace its use.  In the meantime, we can assure you that all Marks and Spencer packaging complies with relevant EU legislation and where possible we take a leading standards approach on chemical safety, through our own independent testing and monitoring programme as well as setting limits on chemicals that are higher than legislative limits.

I hope you will find this information useful.

Thanks again for taking the time to get in touch.

Please be aware that this email is from a ‘no reply’ email address.

If we can assist any further, please visit the help pages of our website.

https://www.marksandspencer.com/contactus

Here you will find answers to some of our frequently asked questions. If after using this facility you still need assistance, please use the contact us link that will appear in the bottom right hand corner. To contact us directly please select the ‘in store service and feedback’ option under ‘email us’.

Kind Regards

Marks & Spencer Customer Services

From:      Canalily

Subject:   Tinned Foods

To:          Marks & Spencer

Dear Sir,

Thank you for your prompt reply.

You have, however, missed the point of my enquiry.

I did not write to ask about the safety of BPA. As you say, there is controversy in this area. Some think it safe, others do not.

Having had breast cancer, I prefer to adopt the precautionary approach. It is my intention to buy only those tinned goods that do not contain any BPA. Hence my question is: which tinned foods stocked by M&S do not have plastic linings that may contain BPA?

With kind regards

Canalily

From:      Marks & Spencer

Subject:   Tinned Foods

To:          Canalily

Dear Ms Canalily

Thank you for contacting us further about the lining of our tinned products.

I am unable to answer this question right now but will speak to our technologist for our tinned products. I appreciate your precaution with plastic lining and although he may not be able to provide an actual list of products excluding this; I will source further information that may prove useful to you.

On receipt of this information I will be in touch further. Thank you for your continued patience and I apologise for any inconvenience this causes.

Kind Regards

Marks & Spencer Customer Services

From:      Marks & Spencer

Subject:   Tinned Foods

To:          Canalily

Dear Ms Canalily,

Following on from my previous correspondence, I have now received a response from our technologist.

He has informed me all of our cans are lacquered to prevent corrosion in contact with the food. You can think of this as a kind of food safe varnish. Any can with a ring pull will contain a layer of plastic (it is how the ring pull works)

The final exception is that our sweetcorn and tomatoes are plastic lined.

I understand this may be disappointing to you and I apologise for any disappointment this causes.

Thank you for getting in touch.

Kind Regards

Marks & Spencer Customer Services

From:      Waitrose

Subject:   Tinned Foods

To:          Canalily

Thank you for your e-mail regarding the presence of bisphenol A (BPA) in the lining of Waitrose canned foods. BPA is a material that attracts a good deal of controversy and misinformation.

Firstly it is important that there is a protective film inside a can to separate the food from the metal and thereby prevent the can from corroding and migrating into the food. BPA is not itself used to coat the inside of cans but is one of the building blocks used to make resins which are then further reacted to form an inert and resistant protective film. Only minute traces of unreacted BPA are in the finished polymer.

The main issues surrounding BPA (and raised by the EWG) are:-

(1) BPA has been shown to have weak oestrogenic activity in animal studies but this is at dose levels many thousands of times higher than the European Union (EU) statutory limit of 0.6 mg/kg for migration from food packaging materials.

(2) A few researchers have suggested low-dose endocrine effects, however this is a controversial theory that has not been confirmed by a detailed independent study on behalf of the EU.

(3) This EU study also found no evidence of the chromosomal abnormalities reported by Hunt et al at the Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, USA.

It is a fact that Government ministries worldwide have reviewed and re-reviewed the various pieces of research work associated with BPA and they remain unconvinced that it has any adverse effects whatsoever at the extremely low levels at which it may migrate into foods and beverages.

UK Food Standards Agency

“there is still no conclusive evidence of a link between harmful effects [of BPA] on human reproductive health and exposure to the chemicals”

European Food Safety Authority

“low-dose endocrine effects of bisphenol A in rodents did not demonstrate such activity in ways that were robust or reproducible in humans”

USA Food & Drugs Administration (FDA)

“FDA sees no reason to change its long-held position that current uses [of BPA] with food are safe”

It is with this knowledge from regulatory bodies and the current absence of any viable alternative material that we permit the use of BPA as a raw material for the production of can linings for Waitrose branded products. We do, however, continue to closely monitor this chemical as new evidence comes to light and recognise the concerns of some of our customers as they read the adverse publicity about BPA that emerges in the media from time to time. Please be assured that we regularly get our products tested to ensure that any migration is within the strict EU limit (above) and, to date, have found no problems. We work closely with our suppliers to identify potential alternatives but, as you can appreciate, we need to act in a precautionary fashion to ensure that we do not prejudice the safety of our canned products by changing to a new material until we are completely certain it is an improvement on existing linings.

We trust this answers your enquiry, thank you for bringing your concerns to our attention.

Regards,

Waitrose Customer Sales and Support.

From:      Canalily

Subject:   Tinned Foods

To:          Waitrose

Dear Sir.

Thank you for your prompt reply.

You have, however, missed the point of my enquiry.

I did not write to ask about the safety of BPA. As you say, there is controversy in this area. Some think it safe, others do not.

Having had breast cancer, I prefer to adopt the precautionary approach. It is my intention to buy only those foods that do not contain any BPA whatsoever. Hence my question is: which tinned foods stocked by Waitrose do NOT contain plastic linings that may contain BPA?

With kind regards

Canalily

From:      Waitrose

Subject:   Tinned Foods

To:          Canalily

Thank you for your return email.

I have posed your question to the buyers and unfortunately, there is not a definitive answer :

‘In terms of a list of which cans have BPA in the linings, this will include the majority of canned goods. There are some products such as canned citrus fruit and pineapple that contain much less because the can bodies are lined with tin plate rather than lacquer, but even for these products the can ends will be coated with lacquer which contains BPA.

I would like to reiterate that the products are safe to consume but as the customer has particular concerns about any cans containing BPA then the most sensible approach would be to avoid all canned foods.’

I apologise for not being able to fully answer your request.

Regards,

Waitrose Customer Sales and Support.

From:      Coles

Subject:   Tinned Foods

To:          Canalily

Dear Ms Canalily

Thank you for your email and apologies for the delayed response.

Your feedback regarding the BPA was forwarded to our Quality Control department and they have advised that they do not have a list of the products that contain BPA.

They have advised that if you are to provide specific details of the products, then they can advise.

Once again, thank you for taking the time to contact us. Our business is committed to serving our customers and feedback like yours offers us insight into how well we are achieving this. We look forward to being of service to you in the future.

Yours sincerely

CUSTOMER CARE CONTACT CENTRE

***

So, it seems that all tinned food and drinks are likely to contain Bisphenol-A. The manufacturers protest that the BPA contaminated linings are essential for ‘food safety’ reasons.

A question: Food canning technology has been around for a century or so. I seem to remember eating lots of tinned food when I was growing up and I never once got botulism or died. What did we do before we started lining the tins with resins and plastic?

Another question: Bisphenol-A has been found in mothers’ milk. If we are taking steps to ban BPA contaminating babies’ milk in their bottles, shouldn’t we also be thinking about banning BPA from the food that mothers eat and then pass on to their babies through their breast milk?

All in all I find the replies from the supermarkets rather lame. I award an ‘A’ for effort to M&S and Waitrose. Tesco and Woolworth’s did not even bother to reply.

More fun stuff about BPA:

What Labels Don’t Tell Us – a report about BPA by Breast Cancer Fund

Tips on avoiding BPA, Phthalates and Triclosan

And a few more…

Here is a List of American companies that use BPA free tins. If anyone knows of any European or Australian tinned goods that are BPA free, please add a comment below.

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5 thoughts on “BPA – A Canalily Investigation

  1. Go Lily!Thank you for persevering with your questions.Marks and Spencer's explanation'all of our cans are lacquered to prevent corrosion in contact with the food. You can think of this as a kind of FOOD SAFE varnish.'is particularly patronising.

  2. I love your citizen journalism and I completely agree- Canalily the canary- you have an uncompromising voice. Your body is revealing earlier what we are all ingesting and who knows how long contemporary humans would be able to live in health but for all the added pollutants sold down the river…I thought maybe this service can gift you some help as you go in editing sorting etc? XRuthhttp://blogbooker.com/book.php

  3. Pingback: BPA – Join the Revolution | the Chemo Chic project

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