Food Safety and the Trouble with BPA

Having a mouse in the house (we think they're gone now) really made me look at our food safety and preservation methods with a little more appreciation. Can you imagine what it was like for our ancestors to make bread every? single? day? That was after they'd milked the cows. Rodents, insects, spoilage threatened pioneer food stores all the time. And when they had to throw something out, they couldn't just run to the Wal-Mart Super Center for more, they had to make do without it. Cleanliness, safety standards, canning, packaging, freeze-drying, pasteurization have all given us food with a long shelf-life and the confidence that it will not make us sick. But will it?

In 2011, I'm trying to be more conscious of my food.  I want to organize my freezer and pantry, be more economical and plan more meals, but I'm also trying to buy organic and reduce the potential of bisphenol-A (BPA) exposure. Luckily, buying organic is becoming easier and easier. But eliminating BPA is not. BPA is a chemical that is used to make plastics more shatterproof - everything from Christmas ornaments to helmets to water bottles. It's presence in  water bottles, the lining of canned foods, the lining of some canned soda concerns me. BPA is an endocrine disruptor, it mimics the hormones in people's bodies, and while the effects haven't been proven in humans, it's been shown to cause harm in laboratory animals. Causing everything from obesity to diabetes to cancer.

Avoiding BPA is difficult at best.  Its presence in food containers is prevalent and labeling is not regulated.  Many infant products and toys are listed as BPA free on the packaging, but testing often shows trace amounts still present.  After starting with BPA-free materials, manufacturing and processing equipment containing BPA leaches it into the food and other products manufactured.  While some corporations are beginning to eliminate BPA from their lines, other companies aren't forthcoming with the contents of their packaging.

The biggest concern is tomato products.  The acidity of tomatoes is a catalyst to the leaching process, leaving a substantial amount of BPA in your food.  Canned tomatoes are particularly troublesome, but even the lids of many glass jarred tomato sauces may contain BPA.  According to Frederick vom Saal, an endocrinologist at the University of Missouri, a liter of canned tomatoes may contain 50 mcg of BPA, which is enough to "impact people."


  1. YIkes...what do we do to have safe tomatoes?

  2. I guess that would have been something good to add. I still buy glass jars of pasta sauce. If they're stored upright, the contact with the lid is minimal. I don't have any scientific studies to back this up as safe, but I believe it's better than canned. I also use Pomi tomatoes from the tetra pak. I find them at the Whole Foods on North Ave. in Chicago, but have found them a few other places. too.