Chemical
New Resource Reveals Widespread Use of Toxic BPA

New Resource Reveals Widespread Use of Toxic BPA

June 17, 2016

By Megan Boyle, Editorial Director

EWG has uncovered new information about a toxic chemical many of us are buying at the grocery store – and how common it really is.

Last year California officially listed bisphenol A, or BPA, on its Proposition 65 list of chemicals known to cause cancer or harm to the reproductive system. The proposition requires businesses to warn Californians when they may be exposed these chemicals.

BPA seeps into our food from packaging materials, such as the lining of metal food cans or lids of glass jars. In an effort to comply with Prop 65, food manufacturers released a treasure trove of information about BPA in food and beverage containers – but they didn’t try very hard to publicize it, and it’s hardly user-friendly.

So EWG created the first easy-to-use and searchable product list of more than 16,000 products from 926 brands that may contain BPA. The list shows the toxic chemical is much more widespread than previously known: it’s in the lids of glass baby food jars, spray cans for whipped toppings, bottles of cooking oil and even beer and soda cans. Read the report to learn more about what EWG discovered and how the new product list was compiled.

BPA is a synthetic estrogen that disrupts hormones and affects our brain development, metabolism and reproductive systems. What’s more, evidence suggests that the developing fetus and young child are most at risk. In 2012, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration banned BPA in baby bottles and sippy cups. A year later, the agency prohibited it in infant formula packaging.

Yet canned foods remain a major source of BPA in the American diet. Citing health concerns and consumer demand, some food manufacturers have already begun using BPA-free packaging, but change in the marketplace is far from complete. In 2014 EWG surveyed more than 250 food brands produced by nearly 120 companies. More than 75 brands still used BPA to line all their metal food cans. Read the full report.

Although BPA’s addition to the Prop 65 list officially kicked in last month, California issued a temporary delay that gives manufacturers more time to reformulate their products or change their labels. The state has allowed businesses to warn customers about BPA through signs at grocery store checkout counters, rather than on products labels or shelf tags – a move that, for now, insufficiently informs and protects customers.

EWG urges California not to extend the deadline further, and both Congress and the FDA to take action to limit our exposure to BPA. Still, we anticipate that Prop 65 will prompt a change in how food and beverages goods are packaged in this country. California boasts the biggest economy in the United States and the eighth largest in the world. What happens in the state often signals similar change elsewhere.

Until that happens, here are some helpful tips for avoiding BPA:

  • Search for your family’s favorite foods and beverages in EWG’s new BPA product list. If they are packaged in containers made with BPA, look for alternative products in EWG’s Food Scores. Tip: use the BPA-free filter function when searching.
  • Buy packaged foods from companies that do not use BPA in their products. Visit EWG’s Best Players or Better Players lists for BPA-free brands and companies.
  • Limit how many packaged foods you eat.
  • If you can’t avoid packaged foods with BPA lining, rinse the food in water before eating. This may help lower the amount of BPA on items such as beans, vegetables or fruit. Bonus: rinsing cuts back on other additives too, such as sodium on beans or sweet syrup on fruit.
  • Don’t heat your food in the can. Transfer it to a stainless steel pot or pan for stovetop cooking, or microwave in glass – not plastic.
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