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HEALTH

July 2018

South Korea Studies BPA Content in Canned Foods


July 2018

Next time you're in your grocery store's canned-food aisle, take a close look at some can labels. You're likely to see some logos indicating the product is "BPA-Free." Since the labels provide no further information, you'll probably assume it must be a good thing – else why would they trumpet the fact?

The cans that do not have such labels contain a protective coating made from a BPA-based epoxy resin. The coating prevents metal corrosion and helps to protect the safety and integrity of the contents. That certainly is a good thing. Epoxy resins have been used as protective coatings for decades because they excel in this critical food-safety application.

But is the presence of BPA (Bisphenol A) in canned foods a good thing? In a recent study by the Seoul Metropolitan Government Research Institute of Public Health and Environment, researchers measured how much BPA is in canned foods, with the goal of learning whether that's a good thing or not.

The South Korean researchers purchased 104 canned-food and -beverage products from local stores in Seoul and measured the level of Bisphenol A in each one. Not surprisingly, they found trace levels of BPA in many of the products. By itself that doesn't mean much, since analytical chemists are very good at finding miniscule amounts of BPA, and just about everything else, almost everywhere they look. The presence of BPA at trace levels indicates the cans do contain BPA in their protective coating.

They calculated daily Bisphenol A intake based on Korean food consumption patterns and compared that figure with safe-intake levels set by government bodies. Using scientific data rather than assumptions, the researchers concluded that "the risk of bisphenol [A] exposure owing to canned food consumption for the population in Korea was low." That conclusion should be applicable elsewhere, since the researchers reported that BPA levels in Korean products were similar to levels reported worldwide.

That conclusion is also consistent with the conclusion recently reached by the South Korean Ministry of Food and Drug Safety (MFDS) after its comprehensive risk assessment on BPA. MFDS stated: "We find that there are no health concerns for the general Korean population from dietary exposure or from aggregated exposure [to BPA]."

Both MFDS and the researchers in Seoul reached their conclusions before the results of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) CLARITY study were available. That study, of unprecedented scope and magnitude for BPA, was conducted by FDA senior scientists in the FDA laboratory. It aimed to resolve remaining uncertainties about BPA safety. That it did, and the results, released in early 2018, provide very strong reassurance that the conclusions reached by Korean researchers are right on target.

So, is it a good thing if a product is BPA-Free? Who knows - since a BPA-Free label doesn't tell you anything about what is in the product itself. All the label tells you is that the product doesn't contain something that is safe. The lack of meaningful information in a BPA-Free label begs the question - what is in the product and how do you know it's safe for you to eat? The BPA-Free label doesn't provide any information to answer that important question.

 

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