Bisphenol A - Toxic Plastics Chemical in Canned Food
March 5, 2007

Bisphenol A - Toxic Plastics Chemical in Canned Food: Companies reduced BPA exposures in Japan

Food manufacturers in other countries appear to be taking voluntary measures to reduce BPA contamination in food. US manufacturers should do the same without waiting for the government to set stronger safety standards for this toxic chemical.

Japanese scientists, government and industry have all taken a notable interest in BPA exposure and reduction strategies. Due to consumer concern about the toxic effects of BPA, Japanese industries voluntarily reduced the use of BPA dramatically between 1998 and 2003.

In 1998 BPA concentrations ranging from 0.6-1 ug/L were detected in 12 of 20 canned drinks in Japan. According to the Japanese government, voluntary efforts by can manufactures reduced the migration level a goal of <5 ug/l. To do so they changed the inner surface of the cans from EXR coating to PET film lamination, or they used a EXR paint with much less BPA migration into food. Due to these BPA reduction and inactivation measures, the assessors noted that virtually no BPA is detected in canned foods and beverages now. Also in Japan, polycarbonate tableware in school lunches were largely replaced with the safer alternatives of polypropylene or melamine, ABS resin, polyethylene naphthalate and stainless steel (RCCRM 2005).

Japanese efforts to reduce human exposure to BPA appear to have paid off with diminished BPA exposure. Japanese risk assessors estimate that the reduced intake of BPA from the cans and tableware changes was 0.3 to 0.5 ug/kg/day per child. But people consuming the most drinks would have an estimated reduction of 0.6 ug/kg/d from drinks alone (Junko 2005).

A group of researchers studying BPA exposure for college students noted a greater than 50 percent decline in BPA measurements in groups of college students examined before and after canned foods and tableware were redesigned. Before the intervention, BPA detections in blood were strongly correlated with the frequency that students drank warm beverages, namely coffee and tea which are commonly contained in cans in Japan. After the redesigned cans were introduced, the frequency of consuming canned drinks had no relationship to BPA measurements, which is what one would expect if BPA levels had been reduced (Matsumoto 2003).

According to the United Kingdom Food Standards Agency the food industry in the U.K. may also be taking voluntary steps to minimize BPA leaching from cans: "Industry is taking action to reduce levels of bisphenol A in canned food to as low as possible and is investigating alternatives to this substance" (UKFSA 2001).

Since alternatives to BPA appear to be both available and feasible, U.S. manufacturers should take action now to reduce their customer's exposures to this toxic chemical.