Above, the bisphenol-A or BPA molecule, a type of plastic found in all kinds of products including baby bottles, plastic food containers, Nalgene bottles, some wines (from the plastic stoppers and the lining of fermentation tanks) and the lining in metal cans. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration says it’s safe, a viewpoint contradicted by at least 100 studies. The problem: BPA is a endocrine disruptor linked to a host of problems, according to some researchers, including cancer, obesity, childhood hyperactivity and the early onset of puberty in girls.

We’ve done our best around our little urban homestead to eliminate plastics from our lives, but where we still encounter BPA is in canned foods which we like to have on hand. Next time you pop open a can take a look at the inside–odds are there is a nearly invisible clear plastic lining which is where you’ll find the BPA. So with BPA we have yet another one of those throw up your hands in disgust, anger and desperation moments at the supermarket. What to do?

Canning your own food is one good option. We started doing this last year and it’s surprisingly easy. The Ball company’s website can get you started on that project. Drying and pickling foods are other alternatives. Also, not all processed food manufactures use BPA. Eden Foods, available at health food stores, skips the BPA.

Separating industry sponsored junk science from government policy is another important, though much more difficult step. Within the means of each of us is developing our own scientific literacy as individual citizens. Read the studies, write your government representatives and fire up that hot water canning bath.

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  1. The lacquer/lining is used in _some_ canned goods to preserve the metallic can from chemical attack, most generally by acids (particularly in canned tomatoes), and also to allow in-can heating without the tin coating leaching into the food.

    The ‘eden foods’ cans you referenced appear to use white enamel PAINT in place of the resin coating. I don’t see how this is necessarily any better for your health or the environment, as I could nowhere find exactly what type of paint it was, or whether any long-term studies had been carried out on any chemicals leaking from this paint into an acidic environment.
    Out of the frying pan?

    If you’re worried, use glass!

    The problem with the nalgene & baby’s bottles is more serious, as all newly manufactured polycarbonates will leach a not inconsiderable amount of bisphenol.

  2. Hippy,

    Thanks for your comment. From what I could gleam from the internet Eden’s cans are, “packed in steel cans coated with a baked on oleoresinous (a natural mixture of an oil and a resin extracted from various plants, such as pine or balsam fir) c-enamel lining, that does not contain bisphenol-A.” according to an Eden spokesperson. The exception is their canned tomatoes which, “are packed in steel cans coated with a baked on r-enamel lining. Due to the acidity of tomatoes, (to prevent the can from rusting) the lining is epoxy based and contains a minute amount of bisphenol A. In extraction test on the r-enamnel lined can bisphenol-A was found to be in the “non detectable” range. The test was based on a detection limit of 5 ppb (parts per billion).” Read more at:

    Your point about long term studies is a good one. As usual, we need more science! And yes, more glass!

  3. This is a great post and a really important topic.

    Besides Bisphenol-A there are also the poly-brominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) used in all kinds of plastics which don’t even have to come in contact with your food to get you. That’s the new car smell that toxifies your liver.

    And if that’s not enough to make you want to avoid plastic there is the Great Pacific Garbage Patch which is a swirling mass of millions of tons of garbage, most of which is plastic.

    Check out this brief interview with Capt. Charles More who found the garbage patch back in 1998:

    The Dangers of Plastic: Interview with Charles Moore

    This is another good article about everything that’s wrong with plastic:

  4. Totally inexperienced with canning. What is the inside surface of the Ball lids and do canned foods ever touch the lids for long periods of time? Even so, a lid is a much smaller surface than the entire inside of a can.

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