Consumer Reports revealed on Monday that the magazine recently tested 19 canned foods, including products from Eden Foods and Annie’s Homegrown, and found that almost all products contained bisphenol A, a chemical used in the epoxy resin linings of most food and beverage cans.

“The findings are noteworthy because they indicate the extent of potential exposure,” said Dr. Urvashi Rangan, director of technical policy at Consumers Union, nonprofit publisher of Consumer Reports, in a release. “Children eating multiple servings per day of canned foods with BPA levels comparable to the ones we found in some tested products could get a dose of BPA near levels that have caused adverse effects in several animal studies.”

Some studies have linked BPA with infertility, weight gain, behavioral changes, early onset puberty, prostate and breast cancers and diabetes. According to Consumer Reports, Canada and some U.S. states and cities have restricted BPA use because of potential health risks, but the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has not yet recommended that people stop using products containing BPA.
The highest levels of BPA that Consumer Reports’ tests found were in samples of canned Del Monte Fresh Cut Green Beans Blue Lake with levels ranging from 35.9 parts per billion to 191 ppb. Progresso Vegetable Soup BPA levels ranged from 67 to 134 ppb. Campbell’s Condensed Chicken Noodle Soup had BPA levels ranging from 54.5 to 102 ppb.

Federal guidelines currently put the daily upper limit of safe exposure at 50 micrograms of BPA per kilogram of body weight, but that number is based on experiments done in the 1980s. Consumer Reports’ food-safety scientists recommend limiting daily exposure to BPA to 0.0024 micrograms per kilogram of body weight. The FDA is currently reassessing what it considers a safe level of exposure to BPA.

Consumer Reports also found BPA in organic canned products and some products packaged in cans that claimed to be BPA-free. The canned Organic Cheesy Ravioli produced by Annie’s had BPA levels of 32 ppb. Samples of Eden Foods Baked Beans in “BPA-free” cans averaged 1 ppb of BPA, and Vital Choice’s tuna in “BPA-free” cans were found to contain an average of 20 ppb of BPA. However, tests of the inside of the “BPA-free” cans found that the liners were not epoxy-based, suggesting BPA was not used.

“I’m not surprised at the findings,” said Michael Potter, president of Eden Foods, based in Ann Arbor, Mich. “One of the ingredients [in Eden’s Baked Beans] is tomatoes. When we use canned tomatoes that our organic grower packs for us, a BPA-containing lining is in the can. All canned tomatoes come in BPA-containing cans. However, beans are a low-acid food, so we can use BPA-free cans for them.”

According to the company website, Eden Foods currently packs organic beans in BPA-free steel cans coated with a baked on oleoresinous c-enamel lining. These BPA-free cans cost the company 14 percent more than BPA-containing cans, said Potter.

Potter noted that no alternative currently exists to replace BPA-containing cans for high-acid foods. “We have been working with the Ball Corp. for two years, trying to get them to develop and have available a BPA-free can lining for high-acid foods,” said Potter. In the meantime, Potter plans to investigate whether Eden Foods could pack baked beans with fresh tomatoes, which he said would keep BPA out of the final product.

Although Annie’s would not comment on the Consumer Reports’ findings because they had not yet seen the tests, the company, like Eden, is actively looking for BPA alternatives. “The only Annie’s products that use BPA are our canned Pasta Meals, such as Cheesy Ravioli, All Stars, BernieO’s, Arthur Loops and P’sghetti Loops,” said Aimee Sands, marketing director for Napa, Calif.-based Annie’s. “At this time, the FDA has not approved a BPA-free can for use with our type of tomato-based products. The BPA is needed in the lining of the cans to prevent the acidic tomato sauce and pasta from reacting with and leaching the metal in the cans.”

Full testing results are reported in the December 2009 issue of Consumer Reports.