—Editor’s Note: This is an important, current article that we found on SFGate.com. We are reproducing it here in its entirety so everyone cooking for families will have this info to digest and decide for themselves. We highlighted the most important passages in red.
Bisphenol A: How to reduce BPA exposure from food
By Debra Levi Holtz, Special to The Chronicle
Sunday, April 17, 2011
Plastic containers and canned foods can be found in most kitchens because they are convenient and affordable. l But there is growing evidence that our use of packaged food comes at a cost.
Bisphenol A, commonly known as BPA, is a chemical used to make hard plastic containers and the lining of metal food and beverage cans. Some scientific studies have linked the hormone-disrupting chemical to reproductive abnormalities and a heightened risk of breast and prostate cancers, diabetes, heart disease and other serious health problems. BPA is so ubiquitous—found even on cash register receipts—that more than 90 percent of Americans have traces of it in their urine, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
While scientists continue to study the health effects of BPA and debate what is a safe level to ingest, there are steps we can take to cut our exposure to the chemical in our kitchens by opting for safe alternatives.
Experts say BPA is most likely to leach from metal and plastic containers into acidic, salty or fatty foods. BPA levels also rise in food when it comes in contact with plastic containers that are heated, particularly in the microwave.
As reported in The Chronicle on March 30 (bit.ly/gQP8hk), a recent study published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives found that is is possible to significantly reduce exposure to BPA and other synthetic chemicals by limiting packaged foods from our diets and storing food in glass or stainless steel containers.
The study acknowledges that while it’s not practical to avoid food packaging altogether, it’s best to choose fresh or frozen instead of canned food as much as possible.
Researchers provided five Bay Area families with freshly prepared organic meals and asked them to avoid contact with PBA-contining food packaging. Food preparation avoided contact with plastic utensils and non-stick-coated cookware, and foods were stored in glass containers with BPA-free plastic lids.
In just three days, the PBA levels of the adults and children dropped by an average of 60 percent. Levels of another chemical, DEHP, or bis(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate, which is classified as a probable carcinogen and possibly affecting male reproduction, also dropped by more than 50 percent among study participants. While BPA is used to harden plastic, DEHP is used as a softening agent in polyvinyl chloride (PVC) products such as plastic food warp, though alternatives to PVC wrap are increasingly available.
Reading abou the study in The Chronicle prompted Gary Kelly of Orinda (CA) to consider ridding his kitchen of plastic containers.
“I never microwave in plastic, and now, I think, perhaps the next step is to get rid of plastics,” says Kelly. He says his only doubt about switching to glass containers is whether they will break or take up too much storage space.
BPA is found in the epoxy resins used to line metal food cans. In 2009, Consumer Reports tested 19 name-brand canned foods and found almost all contained some level of BPA. The levels varied wildly, with the highest found in canned green beans and soup. It didn’t matter whether the food was certified organic or not.
Consumer and environmental groups have repeatedly called on the Food and Drug Administration to ban BPA in food and beverage containers. While the FDA said last year that there is cause for concern over BPA’s potential effect on children and is supporting efforts to produce baby bottles and can linings free of BPA, it fell short of calling for a ban of the chemical in food-contact products. The FDA encouraged people to limit their exposure to BPA while public health officials are studying the issue.
In Japan, most major manufacturers voluntarily changed their can linings in 1997 to cut or eliminate the use of BPA in response to concerns about health effects.
Last year, the European Commission voted to ban BPA from all plastic baby bottles by the middle of this year. Canada, France, and Denmark already have banned the use of BPA in baby bottles.
In May 2009, Minesota became the first state to ban BPA from plastic baby bottles and sippy cups beginning in 2011. More than 20 states, including California, are considering legislation to curb BPA exposure. DEHP was recently banned under Europe’s REACH regulation because of concerns about reproductive toxicity.
Representatives from the grocery and chenmical industries insist that trace BPAls found in humans are safe. The American Chemistry Council, which representas manufacturers of plastics and chemical products, syas typical consumer exposure to BPAnd DEHP is at least 1,000 times less than government-established safe exposure levels. Federal guidelines say it is safe to ingest up to 50 micrograms of BPA per kilogram of body weight a day.
Frederick vom Saal, a biology professor at the University of Missouri at Columbia who is recognized as the leading researcher on BPA, says he does not eat or drink anything out of cans because almost all cans made in the United States are lined with BPA.
He recommends that consumers look for products marked “BPA-free,” which are getting easier to find in stores.
“If a plastic container is hard and clear and doesn’t say ‘BPA-free,’ assume it’s made with BPAand don’t buy it,” suggest vom Saal, who uses only plastic marked on the bottom with recycling codes 2 and 5.
“Anything you can do to reduce the amount of BPA in your body will lower your risk of disease.”
More ways to reduce BPA exposure
Get rid of scratched plastic containers, which may harbor bacteria, and if made with BPA, lead to greater release of the chemical.
Do not put very hot or boiling liquid that you intend to consume in plastic containers. BPA levels rise in food when containers or products made with the chemical are heated and come in contact with the food.
Use stainless steel water bottles rather than hard plastic, but avoid metal bottles lined with a plastic coating and the type of multi-gallon polycarbonate water coolers typically found in offices.
Eat at home as much as possible so you know how your food is prepared and stored. Higher BPA levels are associated with restaurant meals. When you do eat out, choose restaurants that use fresh ingredients.
Department of Health and Human Services: www.hhs.gov/safety/bpa;
Environmental Working Group: www.ewg.org; “Food Packaging and Bisphenol A and Bis(2ethylhexyl) Phthalate Exposure: Findings From a Dietary Intervention” by the Breast Cancer Fund and the Silent Spring Institute, published in Environmental Health Perspectives (sfg.ly/ePkspk);
Frederick vom Saal