Exposure to a plastics additive that’s linked to health problems increases 13-fold when canned soup is eaten instead of soup made from fresh ingredients, according to a study by researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health.
Concentrations of bisphenol A, also known as BPA, were 1,221 percent greater in the urine of 75 volunteers who each ate 12 ounces of vegetarian canned soup compared with levels measured after the consumption of fresh soup, according to the study published online today by the Journal of the American Medical Association.
BPA, used to make polycarbonate plastic bottles and epoxy can linings, is an endocrine-disrupting chemical that has been linked to cardiovascular disease, diabetes and obesity, Harvard said in an e-mailed statement. Food companies should consider eliminating BPA from can linings, said Karin B. Michels, the study’s senior author.
“We’ve known for a while that drinking beverages that have been stored in hard plastics can increase the amount of BPA in your body,” Jenny Carwile, the study’s lead author, said in the statement. “This study suggests that canned foods may be an even greater concern, especially given their wide use.”
Contrary to the authors’ conclusions, the study shows BPA isn’t a health risk because it’s quickly excreted from the body where it can’t harm organs, John T. Rost, chairman of the North American Metal Packaging Alliance, said in a statement. He cited a study funded by the Environmental Protection Agency that found low to undetectable amounts of BPA in blood even when BPA levels in a person’s urine were high.
The canned soup brand used in the study was Progresso, made by Minneapolis-based General Mills Inc. (GIS) The company hasn’t seen the study so can’t comment on it, Kirstie Foster, a General Mills spokeswoman, said in an e-mail.
“Scientific and governmental bodies worldwide have examined the science and concluded that the weight of evidence support the safety of BPA, including comprehensive risk assessments in Japan and in the European Union,” Foster said.
The EU has banned baby bottles containing BPA since June. The American Chemistry Council last month asked the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to take similar action.
Bayer AG (BAYN), which is based in Leverkusen, Germany, is the world’s biggest BPA producer, according to data compiled by Nexant Inc., a San Francisco-based consultant. Saudi Basic Industries Corp. (SABIC), known as Sabic, is the biggest U.S. producer, followed by Bayer and Dow Chemical Co. (DOW), according to Nexant data.
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