I thought I was doing a healthy thing the other day by making a meat sauce from scratch. Instead of just pouring it out of a jar, I used fresh tomatoes, a can of diced tomatoes, a can of tomato paste, and dried spices.
Then a friend of mine posted a list on Facebook: “Seven Cancer-Causing Foods That You Should Stop Eating Right Now.” Lo and behold, canned foods were included because cans’ lining contains a cancer-causing agent called Bisphenol A(BPA).
BPA is a carbon-based compound that has been used since the 1960s to make products such as plastic bottles, food containers, contact lenses, and even children’s sippy cups and baby bottles. But the chemical can leach into food, and studies now show that the vast majority of Americans who are tested have BPA in their urine.
The chemical is an endocrine disrupter that can mimic the hormone estrogen. In 2012, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) declared that it could no longer be used in baby bottles. The Breast Cancer Fund has promoted research showing that this synthetic estrogen is linked to breast cancer.
But as with many other health and safety issues, there is conflicting evidence about BPA. According to a study reported in the February 2014 issue of Toxicological Sciences, the chemical had no effect on rats that were fed thousands of times the amount a typical person ingests.
The results “both support and extend the conclusion from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration that BPA is safe as currently used,” stated Daniel Doerge, a research chemist with the FDA's National Center for Toxicological Research.
Scientists agree that in large doses, BPA can mimic estrogen. But there’s a debate about whether the tiny amounts found in people can cause problems.
Advocates in what has been called the “endocrine disruption movement” have complained that the Toxicological Sciences study was flawed. Consumers are likely to be perplexed by contradictory findings on BPA, but to be on the safe side, there are a few things you can do.
For example, all people are not going to start making their own soups, so the canned varieties are likely to stay. But you can drink out of a glass bottle instead of a can or a plastic bottle. And buying fruit or vegetables fresh is always a better option. If you can’t get them fresh, buy them frozen.
The Breast Cancer Fund has put together these tips for avoiding canned foods:
· Beans. Some companies sell frozen cooked beans. If you're looking for a cheaper alternative, try soaking dried beans overnight and cooking them yourself.
· Ravioli, pasta with meatballs, and other canned meals. Try replacing canned with frozen meals if you don’t have time to cook fresh food. Just make sure to pop the meal out of the plastic (the tray too, not just the film cover) before microwaving.
· Soups. Many soups are available in BPA-free containers, which look like oversized juice boxes. Chicken, beef, and vegetable broths also come in such containers.
Realistically, there are going to be times when you eat food from a can. But the best choice is to eat food as close to its original source as possible.
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