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Worrisome chemical found in canned foods

BY SONYA COLBERG Published: February 7, 2010
Is your bowl of soup safe or are you sipping a toxic time bomb?

Controversy is spreading about BPA, a chemical used in water bottles and baby bottles. Now studies show a health hazard may lie in products found in most Americans’ cabinets — canned foods.

"We know that cans are indeed a major source of exposure,” said Frederick vom Saal, a nationally recognized researcher of BPA, or bisphenol-A. "Practically all canned foods use the product.”

The canned food industry says that BPA is safe. But a new Consumers Union study shows just one serving of tested canned vegetable soup has nearly twice the amount considered average exposure. In fact, researchers found BPA in most of the 19 tested name-brand canned foods.

The Food and Drug Administration and National Institutes of Health announced last month the launch of in-depth BPA studies to "answer key questions and clarify uncertainties about the risks of BPA.” Results are expected in 18 to 24 months.

Already, the chemical has been banned in children’s products in Canada, along with Connecticut, Massachusetts, Chicago and two counties in New York. Bills for federal bans are pending in Congress.

But so far, Oklahoma is not poised to follow suit.

"I’m concerned,” said Lee McGoodwin, Oklahoma Poison Control Center director. "But I think before we ban it, we need more research.”

BPA is a hot topic now, said Vernon Bolz, chief of Consumer Health Service with the state Health Department. He noted studies by the National Institutes of Health that support possible adverse health effects from the product used in plastic food containers.

"It’s too preliminary for our department to make any recommendations one way or another. It’s kind of a new issue on the horizon. We’ll be watching it real closely, and we’ll be following recommendations of the FDA,” Bolz said.

The good and bad of BPA packages
The American Chemistry Council, the industry association, released a statement that the industry is committed to consumer safety and that the chemical helps protect food from spoilage and contamination.

How to limit exposure to BPA

→Eat fresh or frozen produce and limit your

consumption of canned food. Also, try processed food in "brick” cartons, pouches or glass.

→Cut back on canned soda and beer and choose glass when practical.

→With newborns, avoid baby bottles or sippy cups made of polycarbonate (hard, clear, shatterproof) plastic. They’re marked with the recycling symbol #7, and sometimes labeled "PC." (Not all #7

plastics are polycarbonates. Call the manufacturer to make sure.)

→Try a BPA-free reusable water bottle, such as an unlined stainless steel bottle.

→Heat and plastic don’t mix. Try cooking foods in oven safe glassware in microwaves rather than using plastic.

→Try a carbon filter on the water faucet.


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