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Study: BPA Common in Kids' Canned Foods

Researchers Say Potentially Harmful Chemical Is Leaching Into Soup From Cans
By
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Sept. 21, 2011 -- Cans of soup marketed for kids may have a potentially dangerous chemical that's not found on any food ingredient label.

A new report shows some canned soups and meals marketed to children contain the chemical bisphenol A (BPA). All of the products tested positive for the chemical, and Campbell's Disney Princess and Toy Story soups contained the highest levels.

A spokesman for Campbell's says regulatory agencies say the amount of BPA in canned foods doesn't pose a threat to health.

The average level of BPA in the 12 items tested was 49 ppb (parts per billion) and ranged from 10 to 148 ppb. The Environmental Protection Agency's estimate of safe exposure level is 50 ppb per day.

"One serving might be a concern, but a combination of repeated and re-exposure to BPA from cans marketed to kids is a bigger concern," says Connie Engel, PhD, science education coordinator at the Breast Cancer Fund, which conducted the study.

"The combination of these foods with other foods like canned fruits, juices, or vegetables would add up to levels of BPA exposure associated with breast cancer, prostate cancer, infertility in girls, and ADHD [attention deficit hyperactivity disorder]," says Engel.

What Is BPA?

BPA is a controversial chemical that is found in many hard plastics as well as in the linings of metal food cans. The lining forms a barrier between the metal and the food to help prevent contamination with bacteria that may cause illness.

The amount of BPA that leaches into canned foods may vary due to a number of factors, including how salty, fatty, or acidic the food is. How long the food has been canned or exposed to heat or UV light is also a factor.

BPA is known to mimic the hormone estrogen in the body and may interfere with the body's endocrine system. Recent studies have linked BPA exposure to breast and prostate cancer in animals and obesity, thyroid problems, reproductive abnormalities, and neurologic disorders in humans.

In 2008, the FDA said current research supports the safety of low levels of human exposure to BPA. But in 2010 the agency revised its stance to say recent studies suggest there may be some uncertainty about the health risks of BPA.

BPA in Canned Food

In the report, researchers sent two cans each of six different canned meal products marketed to children to an independent testing laboratory for analysis.

The results showed all of the products contained detectable levels of BPA. Different samples of the same product varied by as much as 68 ppb. 

The highest BPA levels were found in two Campbell's products:

  • Disney Princess Cool Shapes Shaped Pasta with Chicken in Chicken Broth: levels ranging from 80-148 ppb
  • Toy Story Fun Shapes, Shaped Pasta with Chicken in Chicken Broth:  levels of 71-90 ppb
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