Monday, May 2, 2011

Avoiding BPA in Your Home Canning

Last fall, shortly after canning season, I learned that the white lining inside canned goods contained bisphenol-A (BPA). At first, I felt thankful to have put away so much of our own produce in glass jars that were safe from unknown chemicals. But then I remembered that the underside of the canning jar lid contains the same white lining that canned goods in the grocery store do. I email Bernardin and asked them if their canning lids contained BPA, and their response was that they did. I felt sick. Every time we opened a jar of canned goods, I wondered how much BPA we were all being exposed to.

You've probably heard about the dangers of BPA over the last couple of years, but if you haven't, here are a few things you should know. BPA is an endocrine disruptor, meaning it can mimic certain hormones in our body. As a xenoestrogen, it can mimic estradiol, a form of estrogen. In a developing infant or fetus, this can mean physical and behavioral developmental consequences, disrupted hormone function, and altered gene expression. In adults, it can mean increased risk of infertility and reproductive disorders, disrupted thyroid functioning, diabetes, heart disease and cancer.

BPA is used as a polymer in plastic and tends to break down over time causing it to release into the materials it comes into contact with. Thus, the focus has been mainly on removing it from plastics, especially plastic children are likely to put in their mouths, like toys, bottles and sippy cups. When I first learned about BPA in plastics, I removed all plastic food storage containers from our home. But, I didn't know what I was going to do about the BPA in our own home canned goods.

The good news is that in my search I learned about a company called Tattler, which not only produces BPA-free plastic canning lids, but lids that are reusable too. Since conventional canning lids are good for only one use, the BPA in each lid will eventually end up in a land fill where it will leach into and contaminate our ground water. I wish there was a better alternative to a plastic canning lid, but it appears to be the best alternative on the market right now.

If you don't can your own produce, you still have options. There are two companies that I know of that have made the effort to use BPA-free linings in their canned goods: Eden Organics (we use their  tomato sauce) and Native Forest (coconut milk).

Happy canning!

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