Are Canned Foods Health Hazards?

How many cans are in your pantry? If you're like many Americans, there's a good chance you've got a supply of canned soup, fruit, beans, tuna, and tomato sauce on your shelves. You might even buy your coffee grounds in a can. However, these canned products may have high BPA levels.

The researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health recruited a group of 75 volunteers. About half of the group ate a serving of canned soup every day for five days, then after two soup-free days the group ate a serving of freshly prepared soup for five days. The other group ate the fresh soup for the first five days and then the canned soup a week later. The result? The participants showed an increase in urinary levels of the chemical bisphenol A (BPA) of more than 1,000 percent after five days of eating the canned soup. Worse, the serving sizes were kept deliberately small compared with what they probably would have eaten if left to their own devices.

BPA, commonly used in plastic food containers and bottles, is a known endocrine disruptor that has caused reproductive issues in lab animals. It also has been connected to obesity and certain diseases in humans. Now that it's been found in the linings of metal food cans, what can you do to protect yourself?

The first and most obvious solution is to avoid buying any canned food or beverages. Make your own soup and reheat it for lunch. If you're not a cook, you might be able to find your favorite soup sold in a plastic pouch, plastic can, or glass jar. Tuna and coffee can also be bought in pouches. Tomato sauce and cut fruit are widely available in glass jars. Beans can be bought dry and soaked overnight before boiling. Once you train yourself to avoid cans, you'll quickly discover new varieties of foods and new ways of preparing them.

The second possibility is to look for companies whose cans are certified BPA free. There aren't many out there, and they may be a bit difficult to find (not all BPA-free cans are labeled as such). A quick online search for BPA-free cans should yield a few brands you can rely on.

Third, if you have no choice and must serve canned fruits or vegetables, rinse them with water before heating and serving them. It won't get rid of all the BPA, but it may reduce the levels you ingest.




Harvard School of Public Health. "Consuming Canned Soup Linked to Greatly Elevated Levels of the Chemical BPA." Web. 22 November 2011.

Environmental Working Group. "Bisphenol A: Toxic Plastics Chemical in Canned Food: Consumer Tips to Avoid BPA Exposure." Web.

O'Connor, Anahad. "BPA Lurks in Canned Soups and Drinks." Web. 22 November 2011.

Mayo Clinic. "What is PGA, and What Are the Concerns About BPA?". Web.