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Prostate Cancer-Linked Chemical Prompts Alert on Baby-Food Cans

A chemical linked with prostate cancer and infertility should be eliminated from cans and plastics used to package food for babies and young children, a consumer advocacy group said.

The chemical Bisphenol A, or BPA, was detected in 87 percent of the 38 canned products -- ranging from baby food to tuna to coconut milk -- tested by the group, Choice. “Relatively high” levels of BPA were found in some baby and infant foods, the Sydney-based group said in a statement today.

H.J. Heinz Co., based in Pittsburgh, said it will use BPA-free packaging for all its baby-food products, following a move by major Australian retailers to phase out BPA in baby bottles after a similar decision in Canada and the U.S., Choice said. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is conducting studies on the safety of low BPA doses and “supports reasonable steps” to cut infants’ exposure, the agency said on its website.

“Opinion may be divided on the potential health hazards of BPA, but why take unnecessary risks especially with young children for whom exposure to these chemicals can mean increased health problems later in life,” Christopher Zinn, a spokesman for Choice, said in the statement. The group calls on “the government to phase out BPA packaging for all baby foods and foods designed for toddlers and young children,” he said.

BPA is used to make products including plastic food and drink containers and compact discs, and in epoxy resins applied as a protective coating for metal cans. The industrial chemical has been present in hard plastic bottles and metal-based food and drink cans since the 1960s, according to the FDA.

Previous studies have linked BPA to health conditions including heart disease and diabetes. The U.S. National Toxicology Program said this year it has “some concern” for effects on the brain, behavior, and prostate gland in fetuses, infants and children at current human exposures to BPA.

Heinz, the biggest supplier of baby food in Australia, announced the phase-out in a July 1 statement.

“While international and Australian food authorities have all declared BPA in food packaging completely safe, Heinz has acknowledged a level of consumer concern about BPA in baby-food packaging by pursuing this voluntary phase out,” Heinz said.

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