The chemical Bisphenol A (BPA) is getting into common foods at unsafe levels according to a recent study by Consumers Union, publisher of Consumer Reports.
Consumers Union found that almost all of the 19 name-brand foods tested, including canned soups, juice, tuna, and green beans, contained levels of BPA. The group also found the chemical in products labeled organic and “BPA-free.”
“Our studies show that the BPA is actually in the food itself,” Urvashi Rangan, director of Technical Policy for Consumers Union told Good Morning America. “We dont think consumers should continue to be exposed to levels that are already causing harm in the animal studies.”
“A consumer doesn’t know what they’re getting when they pull a can off the shelf,” added Rangan.
The high-profile media coverage of the study’s findings is renewing the debate over the safety of BPA, a common chemical used in plastics and in the lining of tin cans.
Media coverage of previous BPA exposure studies, which found that the chemical could contribute to reproductive problems, cancer, and diabetes, caused so much consumer concern that many products, especially baby bottles, are now produced “BPA-free.”
Consumer concern over BPA remains high as the scientific community continues to be divided over exactly what levels of BPA are harmful to human health.
Packaging and chemical industry groups pushed back against Consumers Union’s findings by reminding the public that BPA exposure levels remain low and within current safety limits.
“The weight of scientific evidence clearly supports the safety of BPA,” said the American Chemistry Council in a statement, which called the study’s recommendation to ban BPA in food packaging “inconsistent with the conclusions of expert regulatory bodies worldwide, all of which have confirmed that BPA exposure levels are low and well within safety standards.”
With conflicting information on the safety of BPA many consumers are concerned and confused.
“Its very easy to understand why people are confused,” admits Rangan, adding that industry says their products are safe by citing government safety limits, but, according to Rangan, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration [FDA] safety limits for BPA are “completely outdated” and are being reevaluated.
“The FDA itself is reviewing what that safety limit is this month. It’s been criticized by its own scientific board for being inadequate,” said Rangan.
“We don’t think the safety limit is protective enough based on the hundreds of studies that have been done since FDA set their safety limit. There is the majority of studies showing that there is harm from low dose exposures from [BPA], potentially even getting it from one or a few servings of canned food,” added Rangan.
As the jury remains out on BPA safety, consumer groups encourage people to choose food in packaging that does not use BPA, such as paper or glass, and to buy fresh food. “If you can choose fresh food over cans– its better anyway–this is just one more reason to choose fresh foods,” said Rangan.