Test examines the chemicals in soda cans

9. jan 2017

Cans of soda contain small amounts of the endocrine disrupting substance bisphenol A in the lacquer on the inside of the cans. The substance in the cans can contribute to your combined exposure to endocrine disruptors.

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Test: Which chemicals are in soda cans?
Photo: Nikoline Oturai

Endocrine disrupting substance tested in soda cans

You are probably aware that sodas are not the healthiest of options when you want to quench your thirst. The high content of sugar makes it advisable to limit the intake for both children and adults.

But the fact that the endocrine disrupting substance bisphenol A can also hide in the cans has not received much attention.

A laboratory test from The Danish Consumer Council THINK Chemicals shows that 8 of 14 different cans contained endocrine disrupting bisphenols in the lacquer on the inside of the can. The remaining 6 cans contained the substance BADGE, which bisphenol A is a part of.

No soda cans in the test are ‘green’ choices

  • 8 cans receive a red assessment. They either contained the substance bisphenol A or bisphenol F.
  • 6 cans receive a yellow assessment. They contained the substance BADGE, which bisphenol A is a part of.

Unwanted substance is not suited for children

The content of bisphenol A in the lacquer inside the soda cans is low compared to the permitted limit. The content is not problematic on its own. However, scientists are worried about the so-called cocktail effect – the fact that you can get exposed to problematic chemicals from many sources in your daily life.

The Danish Food Safety Authorities advices pregnant women and small children to avoid food packaging that contain the substance when possible.

In Denmark the substances bisphenol A and BADGE are banned in packaging for foods intended for children age 0 to 3. This is because children are particularly sensitive to the effects of the substance.

See the products and their assessment on the Danish test (link to test in Danish).

For further questions about the test contact Stine Müller, projectmanager in The Danish Consumer Council THINK Chemicals, on e-mail sm@fbr.dk. Read more about how we tested and what we found in the tab below.

How we tested and what we found

The Danish Consumer Council THINK Chemicals sent 14 cans of soda for chemical analysis testing at a accredited laboratory.

The test includes several classic sodas such as Coca Cola and Pepsi. Furthermore products with orange or citrus content is included.

We looked for the following substances:

  • Bisphenol A
  • Bisphenol F
  • Bisphenol S
  • BADGE – bisphenol A diglycidyl ether

Analysis of the content of bisphenols and BADGE has been performed on the coating lacquer of the inside of the cans.

The content of the substances in the actual soda was not measured. But earlier research has shown that bisphenol A can migrate from packaging to food and beverages, and that the substance can be found in canned beverages.

The Danish Consumer Council THINK Chemicals' test methods.

What we found

None of the tested cans were completely free of bisphenols and/or BADGE.

Bisphenol A was found in 7 of the 14 cans

Bisphenol F was found in 1 of the 14 cans

Bisphenol S was not found in any of the cans.

All cans except one contained BADGE, which is a substance that bisphenol A is a part of.

  • A red assessment means that the can contained bisphenol A or bisphenol F.
  • A yellow assessment means that the can contain BADGE (bisphenol A diglycidyl ether).

Levels of bisphenol

The content of bisphenol A in the 7 cans varied from between 1.7 and 3.5 micrograms per can.

The content of bisphenol F in the one can was 1.6 micrograms per can.

The content of bisphenol A and BADGE in the cans was low in comparison with the EU limit values, which however are about to be revised.  The Technical University of Denmark has suggested significant lower limit values.

The single can of soda is not in itself problematic. But scientists are worried about the so-called cocktail effect – the fact that you can also be exposed to problematic chemicals from many other sources in your everyday life.

Bisphenol A, F and BADGE

Bisphenol A is unwanted, because it has endocrine disrupting properties and can affect human reproduction negatively. Recent scientific studies shows, that the substance may have a negative influence on the immune system.

Scientists know less about bisphenol F than about bisphenol A. But the substance is suspected to be endocrine disrupting like bisphenol A.

The effects of the substance are especially worrying, as long as children are still in developing phases. Therefore small children and fetuses are especially important to protect against unnecessary exposure to bisphenol A. The Danish Food Safety Authorities advises pregnant and small children to avoid bisphenol A when possible.

In Denmark both bisphenol A and BADGE are prohibited in packaging for food intended for children between 0 and 3 years old.

Bisphenol A is also banned in baby bottles in the EU, whereas France has banned the substance in all food packaging materials.

BADGE is on the Danish Environmental Protection Agency’s list of unwanted substances. The agency is in a process of mapping out the potential endocrine disrupting effects of BADGE for the EU.

Comments from the manufacturers

Danish Brewers’ Association, representing Carlsberg Denmark A/S, Royal Unibrew A/S and Harboes Bryggeri A/S

“We have not received the test report, and the Danish Consumer Council THINK Chemicals has not wished to inform which laboratory has been used to conduct the test. So we do not know how valid the test is. We only know that it is neither the drink nor the migration that has been tested in spite of the fact that this is demanded according to regulation. In the results we have been presented with there is a difference between the cans from Carlsberg and Royal Unibrew. However, the two companies have the same supplier of cans, and the cans should be completely identical. This raise further questions regarding the validity of the test.

If you consider that the measured content in the can was transferred to the beverage a person should still drink 120 cans of soda per day to exceed EFSA’s recommended acceptable limit value for bisphenol A. The Danish Food Safety Authorities has several times tested food packaging for bisphenol A. These examinations confirm that there are no problems in drinking canned sodas. Consequently the tested packaging is nowhere near being problematic in regard to regulations and recommendations.

Our members are very concerned with the consumer’s safety and protection. There is continually developed new packaging. The packaging we currently use is thoroughly tested and comply with all demands. New packaging is always tested over a longer period of time and assessed to be at least as safe as the current packaging before it is put on the market. Also the consumer always has the choice to buy the product on bottle, if they are more comfortable with that.”

Per Sten Nielsen, head of communications, Danish Brewers’ Association

 Arla, manufacturer of Cocio

“In Cocio food- and consumer safety is highly prioritized. Consequently we are obviously disappointed about the method used for testing our Cocio cans does not show a fair picture of the content which can be found in the product itself. If this was tested, you would see that the content of these substances is well below the permitted and the limit set by the authorities.”

Kasper Ibsen Beck, Head of communications in Arla Denmark.

Premium Beer Import A/S, importer of Orangina

“Orangina notes that this test has found substances in levels marginally higher than the limit value. We will follow up on the results in our department of quality assurance, so a satisfactory quality is assured.”

Jan Erik Andersen, Premium Beer Import A/S

Coop Denmark A/S

“Coop has banned bisphenols in canned foods and the ban therefore does not concern beer and soda cans. This is partly due to a risk assessment, since the migration is very low to beverages. Also to our knowledge there are still no alternatives to epoxy lacquer. But the cans contain BADGE and not bisphenol A which is fine. We are following the development. If it becomes possible to change the lacquer in soda cans, we would prefer that in order to be able to clearly state that all cans are free of the substances.”

Malene Teller Blume, non food head of quality, Coop Denmark A/S

 

(The Danish Consumer Council THINK Chemicals: We do always share the results of the test with the companies prior to publication. But we do not inform companies about which laboratories conduct our tests. The reason is that we are best able to ensure that the laboratories can act independently of other interests when we do not give this information. We have our test done on some of the same laboratories as used by the industry, and a conflict of interest could occur if we publicized the names of the laboratories. Regarding criticism of the test method read more about how the test is conducted under the tab ‘How we tested and what we found’).