Whole Living Daily

For a Healthier Thanksgiving, Choose BPA-free Trimmings

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canned foodIt makes sense that November, which kicks off our feasting season, is also National Diabetes Month. It’s easy to gain weight over the holidays, and being overweight is one of the top two risks (the other is lack of exercise) for developing Type 2 diabetes, which is growing at an epidemic rate. Fattening diets of sodas and processed foods—high in added sugars and fats and low in fiber—have long been linked to diabetes, but another possible risk factor was recently identified: the plastic chemical Bisphenol-A (BPA), which leaches from the linings of food cans and from polycarbonate (#7) bottles, and has been found in the bodies of 95% of Americans tested.

In two recent studies, one on human adults in 2008 and one on pregnant mice and their offspring this year, higher exposures to BPA have been associated with diabetes. In the human study, those with most BPA in their urine were also more likely to have cardiovascular disease—which goes hand-in-hand with diabetes.

Now a new study has found BPA in 60% of the canned and plastic-packaged foods tested. The authors, including Dr. Arnold Schechter of the University of Texas School of Public Health and Dr. Linda Birnbaum, director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Studies, concluded that “food packaging systematically causes the occurrence of BPA in foods.” (For an excellent summary in Science News, click here.)

What You Can Do

First of all, don’t panic. You don’t have to radically rearrange your lifestyle and avoid canned or processed foods altogether. Levels found in the packaged foods tested in the University of Texas study mentioned above did not exceed the EPA’s current recommended daily limit, researchers said.  However, because we are exposed to BPA through many other sources, including polycarbonate (#7) plastic food and drink containers and the coatings on store receipts, it’s worthwhile to choose less risky alternatives when possible.

Simple diet and lifestyle shifts can keep you and your family diabetes-free. Eat whole foods, such as brown rather than white rice, and lots of fresh fruits and vegetables. This Thanksgiving, you can choose fresh cranberries and pumpkin instead of canned and skip a possible dose of BPA. (Give diabetes another kick by taking a half-hour walk after dinner.)

No time to convert pumpkin innards into pie? You can find pureed pumpkin in glass jars or in cans from companies who assure they don’t use BPA. For BPA-free ideas and a pumpkin pie recipe, click here.

Also, see my lists of bottles and food storage containers without BPA or other unhealthy plastic chemicals.

Got a question about BPA or safe plastics? Leave a comment below, and I’ll reply post haste! And send me your other econundrums here—you might see the answer in an upcoming issue.

Mindy Pennybacker is  Whole Living’s “Econundrums” columnist. See her answers to reader questions and ask your own here.  She is also editor of GreenerPenny.com and author of Do One Green Thing: Saving the Earth Through Simple, Everyday Choices.

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Comments (1)

  • If you don't have access to fresh pumpkin for your pies or time to prepare it, Trader Joe's organic canned pumpkin is BPA-free. I received the following email from their customer relations department after inquiring about it:

    Hello,

    Thank you for contacting us, and we do truly appreciate your interest in our Trader Joe's canned products. In response to your inquiry, BPA (Bisphenol A) which is used in manufacturing the plastic (resin enamel) lining of canned goods, prevents spoilage. This is currently an industry-wide standard, and is an issue for most manufacturers of food-grade cans and canned foods. However, work is currently being done within the industry to develop alternative, BPA-free linings for canned products.

    However, we are also exploring alternative packaging options wherever we can in an effort to put the feedback we are receiving from our loyal customers into play in a tangible and meaningful way. Our canned pumpkin products do not contain BPA linings, and we have also made recent updates to some of our other canned products so that they no longer contain BPA linings (such as our canned corn and canned beans, salmon, chicken and beef products, and most recently also some of our canned tomato products no longer contain BPA linings). We also do not have any plastic packaging with BPA in our stores.

    To be clear, currently some of our canned items DO currently have linings that contain BPA, including our canned soups, chilis, and some more acidic products. However, we would also be happy to address the specific question as to whether any of our canned products contain BPA on an individual and specific product basis. We do invite you to resubmit any specific product requests in the form of a new email to include the name and/or description of the product, as well as the UPC Code or SKU number, and we would be happy to address your inquiry. You can also stop and inquire with your store Captain or First Mate wheneve you are shopping with us.

    Again, currently all of our products and packaging are within food safety guidelines and regulations. However, we are also handling this issue in the same manner as previous matters of concern: we're listening to the feedback from our loyal customers and exploring options to put that feedback into place in a meaningful way in the future.

    We hope this information helps, and we do thank you for shopping with us at Trader Joe's.

    Sincerely,

    Hazel
    Trader Joe's
    Customer Relations

    I hope this helps!

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