Behind the Brand Curtain
BPA in Canned Food: Appendix A: Methodology
Information was gathered on products captured by LabelINSIGHT® between July 2013 and July 2014, representing a sample of the products sold in metal cans that were available to U.S. shoppers in that period. Brands were selected if they either currently offer canned food or still have canned food stock available on grocery store shelves as of July 2014, according to LabelINSIGHT® data.
For uniformity, this survey focused on cylindrical or rectangular steel, steel-tin, or “tin” cans – as they are known. Most aluminum beverage containers in the U.S. are also thought to be manufactured with some BPA in the linings, but according to the FDA they have “thinner coatings” and “are not thermally processed in the same manner as food cans” (FDA 2008). High levels of BPA have been reported in coffee-and tea-containing cans (FAO/WHO 2011), but beer, sodas and other beverages in aluminum cans are believed to be among those with the lowest levels of BPA (Cao 2010). Brands using these types of cans were excluded from the survey.
Products packaged in paperboard cans or composite plastic containers with easy-open peel-back lids – whose membranes have been known to be produced using BPA (McMiller 2014, Consumer Reports 2009b), were also excluded.
Commercial-size products were included if a company provided information on them, but EWG did not seek out these products or brands.
Some brands and companies cited particular obstacles to shifting to BPA-free cans because of the nature of the foods they sell. EWG did not provide special consideration for companies and brands selling acidic foods such as fruit, shellfish or tomatoes when comparing them to brands and companies that do not specialize in these types of foods.
EWG took companies at their word with regard to BPA use. EWG did not request independent test results or certificates from suppliers, nor did we commission our own testing to validate the claims of brands and companies.
EWG recognizes that there is no such thing as being truly “BPA-free,” given the ubiquity of BPA in air, water and dust. We interpret the term to mean that BPA was not intentionally added during the manufacturing of the can lining. Companies that reported using “non-intent” cans were considered to be using BPA-free cans, on the understanding that the can lining was not intentionally manufactured with BPA.
Companies that reported using BPA-free cans while also reporting either a level of BPA or a detection limit that EWG believes is not in line with our recommendations are noted in Appendix B.
Companies that reported using BPA-free cans for some products were listed as such if they could confirm the relevant brand(s). If a company refused or was unable to provide specific product names or broader product categories or boundaries and the information was not available on company websites, they were not listed in Appendix C. Product names in Appendix C consist of names or categories provided directly by the company or specific product lists identified from brand websites using company-provided general categories as a guide. Products listed in Appendix C that were pulled from company websites may not represent the full spectrum of products that brand currently has available in stores.
Companies that identified themselves as currently undergoing a partial market trial with BPA-free cans but would not say which markets, brands, or products were part of the trial were considered to be using cans with BPA.
Companies were classified as unclear under one of three circumstances: 1) They did not respond to our inquiry and had no corporate or brand website or social media pages allowing EWG to gauge BPA use. 2) The response was too vague to establish if they used BPA-free cans for some products, all products or none. 3) They reported offering some BPA-free products but refused to or could not identify in which specific brand or brands. These include companies that rely on independent suppliers and were unable to find out the nature of cans they use and companies who required EWG to provide specific product information, such as names and UPC codes, before they would provide a substantive response with regard to BPA use.
Companies that reported “trace amounts” of BPA in their cans were classified as using cans with BPA if they did not provide a quantifiable level of BPA to justify a different classification.
Companies that reported complying with FDA requirements for direct food contact coatings, or reported meeting compliance with levels “below” or “well below” FDA’s requirements, were classified as using cans with BPA if they did not provide a quantifiable level of BPA to justify a different classification.
Companies that reported complying with the European Union requirements for direct food contact coatings, or that reported complying with the European limit for BPA of 600 parts per billion, were classified as using cans with BPA because this level is much higher than the amount of BPA found in American canned food samples.
Products that were reported to use BPA-derived coatings only on the seams, lids, or lids and ends were considered to be using cans with BPA.
Brand ownership fluctuates rapidly with acquisitions and mergers, and EWG’s listing may not represent the most up-to-date company/brand relationships.
Details of company communications are available upon request.