Recent studies have found that the chemical bisphenol A (BPA) can migrate from the linings used in soup cans into the product itself, and thereby into the bodies of those who ingest the soup:
Example: [Collected via e-mail, June 2012]
Charles Drabkin thought that Progresso soup was a healthy option for lunch, but then he found out that chemicals in the can lining have been linked to obesity, diabetes, heart disease and cancer.Progresso lines its soup cans with bisphenol A, or BPA. Scientists have long warned of BPA’s link to cancer, but a new study has found that it’s related to obesity and diabetes as well. According to the study, BPA basically tricks your fat cells into taking in more fat — and can also trick your pancreas into producing more insulin than necessary, which can lead to Type 2 Diabetes.
Consumer Reports says that Progresso uses dangerous levels of BPA in its soup cans — in fact, some samples contained so much BPA that eating just one serving would mean ingesting 80 times more BPA than experts say you should have in one day.
Charles is a chef instructor at a community college, and he’s passionate about making sure Americans have access to quality food — that’s why he started a petition on Change.org asking Progresso to stop using BPA in its can linings.
How much of a danger, if any, this situation presents to consumers is still a matter of debate:
If you read the ingredient list on a can of soup, you’re likely to see items like carrots, wild rice, perhaps some noodles. What you won’t see listed: the industrial chemical BPA, or bisphenol A.But a little canned soup for lunch can dramatically increase exposure to the chemical, according to a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).
The study confirms that canned food is a source of BPA exposure. But it does nothing to clear up the question of whether this sort of exposure to BPA has health consequences.
BPA is found in some plastic bottles and in the epoxy resins used to coat the inside of many food and beverage cans. Previous studies have shown that some BPA from can linings does get into the foods they hold.
Some scientists are concerned about BPA exposure because the chemical can act like the hormone estrogen, and studies show that high levels can affect sexual development in animals.
But people are exposed to much lower levels. And agencies including the Food and Drug Administration and Environmental Protection Agency haven’t found evidence that this exposure is causing problems.
NPR reported of the most recent study that:
In the new study, researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health compared people who were given canned vegetable soup for lunch each day with people who got vegetable soup made without any canned ingredients.And they found that a couple hours after eating, the people who had canned soup had BPA levels in their urine that were about 12 times higher than the people who didn’t.
The levels were still within the range that government agencies consider safe.
Even so, “We were surprised by the magnitude of the elevation,” says Karin Michels, senior author of the paper. Michels says previous studies have found much less dramatic increases after people drank from polycarbonate bottles.
It’s unlikely that soup caused BPA levels to remain high very long, Michels says, because the body tends to excrete most BPA within a few hours. But she says levels could stay high for people who regularly consume foods and beverages from cans.
Michels says she can’t comment on the health implications of the finding because that wasn’t part of the study.
(Others have criticized the Harvard study as being alarmist.)
In March 2012, Campbell’s announced it would begin shifting to BPA-free cans for its soup packaging and other canned products:
We believe that current can packaging is one of the safest options in the world; however, we recognize that there is some debate over the use of BPA. The trust that we have earned from our consumers for over 140 years is paramount to us and we have been monitoring and working on the issue for several years. Because of this, we have already started using alternatives to BPA in some of our soup packaging and we are working to phase out the use of BPA in the lining of all of our canned products. The cost of this effort is not expected to be material.
Butler, Kiera. “Waiter, There’s BPA in My Soup.”
Mother Jones. September 2010.
Hamilton, Jon. “Eating Canned Soup Makes BPA Levels Soar.”
NPR. 22 November 2011.
Kaskey, Jack. “Canned Soup Increases Bisphenol A Exposure, Harvard Study Says.”
Bloomberg. 22 November 2011.
Westervelt, Amy. “Responding to Consumer Concern, Campbell’s Goes BPA-Free.”
Forbes. 5 March 2012.