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Food safety: Should canned foods come with a warning label?

Canned Foods Although smokers may not like reading the warning labels on cigarettes, at least they know that they're consuming a product that comes with health risks. Should consumers of canned goods also get the benefit of a warning label? Most might not realize that their canned food has been bathing in BPA, a chemical linked to breast and prostate cancer, as well as infertility, early puberty in girls, obesity and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. (A recent study found Del Monte Fresh Cut Green Beans to be the worst offender.)

Those in the food industry argue that they follow food-safety regulations and that there really aren't cost-effective substitutes to cans.

And maybe BPA isn't as bad as it seems. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's website, "Finding a measurable amount of BPA in the urine does not mean that the levels of BPA cause an adverse health effect." It says "more research is needed to understand the human health effects of exposure to BPA."

Jon Entine, author of "Scared to Death: How Chemophobia Threatens Public Health," adds to the conversation, saying that the public ought not to be fueled by anxiety created by advocacy groups and "the breathless media":  

It's critical to examine the consequences of banning a particular chemical. Among its myriad uses, BPA can be found in can liners that increase the shelf life of food and prevent botulism, which is a genuine health threat. There are no effective substitutes. Ban BPA and people are likely to die. …

Tofu is more estrogenic than BPA. …

[S]cientists must remain open to new evidence. We are developing sophisticated tools to evaluate exposure to chemicals, including examining their impacts on genes and hormonal system. If the weight of evidence shifts, we have to be prepared to tighten regulations.

This is reassuring, especially considering that BPA is in plastic bottles, on receipts, even on money. Still, I'm in favor of warning labels on cans so that consumers can make informed decisions.

If you're among those who are nervous about long-lasting harms caused by BPA in canned food, Los Angeles Times reporter Susan Carpenter has good news over on our environment blog, Greenspace ("Want to reduce BPA exposure?").

-- Alexandra Le Tellier


Comments () | Archives (4)

The comments to this entry are closed.

Michael Vandeven

If you are concerned about eating canned foods you can eliminate them from your diet by swapping home cooked meals with friends on www.heyfood.org. On www.heyfood.org home cooks plan to swap home cooked meals with other home cooks in their area so they can remove processed foods and canned foods from their diet and have fun doing it!

Startha Mewart

All this warning labels everywhere is ridiculous. All its doing is making people scared to death. People have been eating canned foods for more than 80 years and just NOW you hear about the dangers? Ridiculous. You gotta wonder if this is merely propoganda from the fresh food lobbyists. Mind you, I much prefer fresh to canned, but once in a while canned foods are useful...and it's a heckuva lot better than starvation.


Most men who incorporate tofu in their regular diets behave like men who possess excessive estrogen in their bodies. They're men by gender only.

Tim Bowman

Maybe we should put warning labels on politicans: Caution - electing this guy could cause you to be burdened to death by government taxation and regulation.



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The Opinion L.A. blog is the work of Los Angeles Times Editorial Board membersNicholas Goldberg, Robert Greene, Carla Hall, Jon Healey, Sandra Hernandez, Karin Klein, Michael McGough, Jim Newton and Dan Turner. Columnists Patt Morrison and Doyle McManus also write for the blog, as do Letters editor Paul Thornton, copy chief Paul Whitefield and senior web producer Alexandra Le Tellier.

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