Metal cans and BPA | EarthTalk | Indy Week
Pin It

Metal cans and BPA 

Q: I've often cooked canned foods in their own can, things like condensed milk and mushroom soup. I put the can without opening it in the pressure cooker, cover it with water and let it cook for 30 minutes. The results are amazing. Is it safe to do that? Can metals leach into my food?

A: For starters, can makers don't recommend using their products for anything but storing food unopened until it's ready to eat. "Cans are reliable, recyclable, durable packages that keep beverages and foods fresh and allow them to be transported safely for thousands of miles, even into remote regions—but they were not made to be used as cooking containers," says Scott McCarty of Colorado-based Ball Corporation, a leading U.S. food and beverage packaging maker.

Proponents of can-cooking cite the fact that many canned goods are already heated in their cans to kill bacteria during the canning process, so what harm could a little more heating do? McCarty concedes that some cans are indeed heated during the packing process. "But that isn't all cans or all foods, and it is a carefully controlled and monitored process done in an environment that is made to do it."

As for what metals may be leaching into your canned food, it depends. In the U.S., most food cans are made of steel, while beverage cans are usually made out of aluminum. Chromium and nickel can find their way out of steel, but the amounts would be minuscule to nil. Slightly more troubling is the fact that aluminum—large amounts of which have been linked to nervous system disorders and other health problems—could in theory leach out of cans into their food or drink contents.

To prevent any such leaching, the insides of most cans on grocery shelves today are coated with food-grade epoxy. But these liners have been shown to contain Bisphenol-A (BPA) and other potentially harmful chemicals. BPA is a synthetic plastic hardener that has been linked to human reproductive problems and an increased risk of cancer and diabetes. A 2009 analysis of common canned foods by the nonprofit Consumers Union found measurable levels of BPA in a wide range of items, including some bearing a "BPA Free" label.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is currently reviewing whether to allow BPA to come into contact with food items at all. In the meantime, some forward-thinking companies aren't waiting around for an FDA ruling. Eden Foods worked with its packaging manufacturer, Ball Corporation, back in 1999 to switch out traditional epoxy-based liners with a baked-on, BPA-free enamel lining derived from plant oils and resins.

This technology is nothing new; in fact, Eden stumbled upon it by asking Ball what it used before epoxy liners became standard some three decades earlier. While the custom-made cans cost 14 percent more than industry-standard cans would, Eden maintains it's worth the extra expense, which amounts to some $300,000 extra per year. "It was the right thing to do," says Michael Potter, Eden's president. "I didn't want BPA in food I was serving to my kids, my grandkids or my customers."

Send your environmental questions to: EarthTalk, c/o E– The Environmental Magazine, P.O. Box 5098, Westport, CT 06881; earthtalk@emagazine.com. E is a nonprofit publication. Subscribe: www.emagazine.com/subscribe; Request a Free Trial Issue: www.emagazine.com/trial.

Latest in EarthTalk

More by EarthTalk

Comments (2)

Showing 1-2 of 2

Add a comment

 
Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-2 of 2

Add a comment

INDY Week publishes all kinds of comments, but we don't publish everything.

  • Comments that are not contributing to the conversation will be removed.
  • Comments that include ad hominem attacks will also be removed.
  • Please do not copy and paste the full text of a press release.

Permitted HTML:
  • To create paragraphs in your comment, type <p> at the start of a paragraph and </p> at the end of each paragraph.
  • To create bold text, type <b>bolded text</b> (please note the closing tag, </b>).
  • To create italicized text, type <i>italicized text</i> (please note the closing tag, </i>).
  • Proper web addresses will automatically become links.

Latest in EarthTalk

  • Thyroid cancer on the rise

    Instances of people with thyroid problems seem to be on the rise. Is there an environmental connection?
    • May 18, 2011
  • How healthy is soy?

    How healthy is soy?

    I heard that, despite its healthy image, most soy is grown using chemicals like other crops and is even being genetically modified.
    • May 11, 2011
  • The state of the air

    The state of the air

    Is air quality in the United States improving or getting worse? Is it cleaner in some parts of the country than in others?
    • Apr 27, 2011
  • More »


Twitter Activity

Most Recent Comments

Best Wrapping Plastic
All of QuickWrap's shrinkwrap is 100% virgin resin material with extremely consistent mil thickness and opacity. It …

by aayanleayanle on Recycling plastic food wrap (EarthTalk)

Comments that are not contributing

by aayanleayanle on Recycling plastic food wrap (EarthTalk)

Thank you for this article. My husband and I just got our own place and we finally have room for …

by Lyla Burns on The benefits of hydroponics (EarthTalk)

I am a grower of kenaf and would like to invite those interested in having people join with me in …

by solarentrep on Kenaf: Paper without the wood (EarthTalk)

I'm surprised the article didn't mention the fluoride-thyroid connection. Fluoride is just one of a great many environmental hormone disruptors.

by oldmagnolia on Thyroid cancer on the rise (EarthTalk)

Comments

Best Wrapping Plastic
All of QuickWrap's shrinkwrap is 100% virgin resin material with extremely consistent mil thickness and opacity. It …

by aayanleayanle on Recycling plastic food wrap (EarthTalk)

Comments that are not contributing

by aayanleayanle on Recycling plastic food wrap (EarthTalk)

Most Read

  1. Dot-con (Peripheral Visions)
  2. Smug Revisionism (Letters to the Editor)

© 2016 Indy Week • 201 W. Main St., Suite 101, Durham, NC 27701 • phone 919-286-1972 • fax 919-286-4274
RSS Feeds | Powered by Foundation