Test: Chemicals in cans of coconut milk

7. dec 2016

A Nordic test of cans containing coconut milk shows that 11 out of 30 cans contain the endocrine disrupting chemical bisphenol A. All findings are below the limit values, but in Denmark bisphenol A is prohibited in food contact materials for food for children from 0 to 3 years old.

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Test of cans with coconut milk
Photo: The Danish Consumer Council THINK Chemicals

Cans of coconut milk: Few ’green’ choices on the Danish market

The endocrine disrupting substance bisphenol A is found in 7 out of 15 tested cans of coconut milk from the Danish market. That is revealed in a new test conducted by The Danish Consumer Council THINK Chemicals in cooperation with 4 other Nordic consumer organizations.

3 cans of coconut milk contain BADGE - bisphenol A diglycidyl ether - and receive an average mark.

4 products on the Danish market contain neither bisphenol A nor BADGE. Therefore they get the best mark in the test.

See the test results for all the products below this article.

In Danish: See the test of cans with coconut milk in Danish.

Unwanted chemicals: Relatively low content of bisphenol A and BADGE

The content of bisphenol A and BADGE in the cans is relatively low compared to the current limit values. These limit values are however under revision and the DTU in Denmark have proposed a much lower limit value.

Cans of coconut milk with bisphenol A may not be a problem on its own. But scientists are worried about the effects from the total exposure of many unwanted chemicals from many sources in everyday life – what is known as the cocktail effect - which is not incorporated in the current legislation.

Banned: Bisphenol A is not for children

Bisphenol A is banned in food contact materials in France and in October 2016 the EU parliament supported a proposal that would roll out the ban in all EU countries. Bisphenol A is unwanted because it is endocrine disrupting chemical and can effect human reproduction negatively. New scientific research has shown that the substance can have a negative impact on our immune system.

In Denmark bisphenol A is banned in food contact materials for food aimed for children age 0 to 3 years because children are particularly vulnerable towards the effects of unwanted substances.

The effects of the substances are particularly worrying in the developmental phase of children's lives and therefore it is necessary to protect fetuses and small children against exposure from unwanted chemicals like bisphenol A.

Nordic countries: Less use of bisphenol A

In Sweden none of the 4 tested cans contained bisphenol A. In Finland only one product receives the highest mark, and in Norway only 1 of the 6 cans tested get the lowest mark. In the cans from Iceland 3 out of 5 cans contained bisphenol A.

Big test of cans on the American market

In March 2016 a big test of 192 cans of food from the American market was tested.

See the test for BPA in cans on the American market (external link).

How we tested

In June/July 2016 The Danish Consumer Council THINK Chemicals together with four Nordic consumer NGOs, Forbrukerrådet (Norway), Sveriges Konsumenter (Sweden), Neytendasamtökin (Iceland) and Kuluttajaliitto (Finland) bought and sent 30 cans of coconut milk (Denmark - 10 pcs., Norway - 5 pcs., Sweden - 4 pcs., Iceland - 5 pcs. and Finland - 6 pcs.) for chemical testing at an accredited laboratory.

We tested for these chemicals:

  • Bisphenol A
  • Bisphenol F
  • Bisphenol S
  • BADGE - bisphenol A diglycidyl ether.

Analysis for bisphenols and BADGE - bisphenol A diglycidyl ether has been performed on the coating lacquer from the insides of the cans.

Read about how we conduct our tests in The Danish Consumer Council THINK Chemicals.

What we found:

We found Bisphenol A in 11 of the 30 cans.

Here are the results from the cans bought in the different countries.

Denmark: 6 red - 3 yellow - 1 green

Finland: 1 red - 3 yellow - 2 green

Sweden: 0 red - 1 yellow - 3 green

Norway: 1 red - 3 yellow - 1 green

Iceland: 3 red - 0 yellow - 2 green

  • Red flask: contains bisphenol A 
  • Yellow flask: contains BADGE - bisphenol A diglycidyl ether
  • Green flask: contains neither bisphenol A nor BADGE - bisphenol A diglycidyl ether

The content of bisphenol A in the 11 cans varied between 1.5 to 6.0 microgram/can.

The content of BADGE - bisphenol A diglycidyl ether in the 10 cans varied between 1.7 to 19 microgram/can.

Bisphenol F and S were not found in any of the 30 cans.

Feedback from companies

Company feedback in Denmark:

Coop, who sells COOP Kokosmælk and Änglamark Økologisk Kokosmælk, says that the tested cans are produced before Coop banned BPA in the lacquer. Coop also says that the BPA has been substituted with BPA-NI in May 2016. BPA-NI means “Bisphenol A Not Intended”. This means that the new lacquer does not have BPA intentionally added, but very small amounts can be present because of contamination from the production.

Rema1000 who sell Inspiring Food Kokosmælk says that from January 2017 the coconut milk will be sold in cans that are BPA NI (Non Intended).

Dansk Supermarked Group (DSG) who sell Asian Kitchen Kokosmælk and Allfair Økologisk Coconut Milk says that Asian Kitchen Coconut Milk contains neither bisphenols nor BADGE, and Allfair Økologisk kokosmælk is below limit values. Concerning Allfair Økologisk kokosmælk DGS, says that the BPA levels are so low that they are only barely detectable, while the BADGE content is 400 times below the current limit value.  DSG says, that the result says nothing about the content in the coconut milk since the test is performed on the can. Therefore they believe that it is unrealistic that the full content of substances is present in the coconut milk. The levels therefore must be even lower than the limit values.

COSMOVEDA E.K. from Germany who sells Cosmoveda Økologisk Kokosmælk says to the Danish Consumer Council that they replaced the lacquer in July 2016 and are now using BPA-free cans.

NORDLIE FOOD A/S who sells Sun Best Kokosmælk says that the product will be guaranteed free of BPA from 1st of January 2017.

AB World Food, who sells Blue Dragon says that although the findings are extremely low we understand the concern relating to these chemicals and we are therefore excluding BPA from can materials.  We´ve moved to totally BPA free can production in March 2016. (The process started in January 2016). But because of the slow process, we still might have some “old cans” which include BPA.

 

Feedback from Finland:

S Group (Rainbow): The only retailer whose product had BPA pointed out that they are already aware which of their cans contains bisphenol, but they have the strategy to have BPA free cans (in private labels) by the year 2018. 

Haugen Gruppen (Blue Dragon): Although the findings are extremely low we understand the concern relating to these chemicals and we are therefore excluded BPA from can materials.  We´ve moved totally BPA free can production in March 2016. (The process started in January 2016)

Lidl (Vitasia Thai): The BADGE-levels are extremely low and we hope that you`ll regard the low levels when you publish the results.

Fine Foods (Spice up): According to EFSA, BADGE doesn’t cause cancer etc. and the levels of BADGE found in the test are extremely low. We hope you consider the facts said (our products are safe) when you publish the results.

Aduki Oy: (Biona- organic) We have systematically excluded can materials which consist BPA. 

KESKO OYJ: (Pirkka) We want to be in the forefront in consumer safety and exclude can materials which include BPA or BADGE (in Private Label): No BADGE is found in the Private Label products.  Currently 93% of cans sold under Private Label are bisphenol free, and it´s likely that we reach 100% in the first months of 2017.