Test: Bisphenol A still present in cans with tomatoes

4. jul 2018

A test from the Danish Consumer Council THINK Chemicals shows that some cans with tomatoes are still coated on the inside with a lacquer containing the unwanted chemical bisphenol A. However, in general fewer cans contain the endocrine disrupting chemical.

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Test: Bisphenol A still present in cans with tomatoes.
Photo: The Danish Consumer Council THINK Chemicals

Many cans are free of endocrine disrupting chemicals

A test of 13 cans of chopped tomatoes from the Danish Consumer Council THINK Chemicals examines the content of bisphenol A (BPA) in the cans.

BPA is an endocrine disrupting chemical that can be present in epoxy lacquers used as the inside coating of cans.

The test shows that you can find cans with tomatoes that are without detectable amounts of the known human endocrine disruptor.

9 products in the test are free of bisphenol A and other related bisphenols.

See the chemical test of canned tomatoes (in Danish)

2 cans contained bisphenol A

2 cans with chopped tomatoes contained bisphenol A. Both brands were private-label products from Danish retailers.

Furthermore, 2 products contained the related substance BADGE – a substance that contains bisphenol A.

The EU has agreed that bisphenol A is an endocrine disruptor in humans. Therefore, it is unwanted in our food packaging.

However, the single can with BPA does not constitute a health risk in itself. But humans are exposed to endocrine disrupting substances from many sources in everyday life including food and food packaging, indoor air and cosmetics. It is the total exposure to endocrine disrupting chemicals, also known as the cocktail effect, which is of concern.

Researcher: This is why bisphenol A is problematic

"Bisphenol A is problematic because it is an endocrine disruptor, and because there are many scientific studies that show that it can have an effect at rather low doses. Consumers should not worry about bisphenol A in the individual can. However, it is the many small contributions consumers are exposed to from many different sources, which overall can be problematic."

Sofie Christiansen, Senior Researcher at DTU Food

Number of cans with bisphenol A has decreased

The number of canned tomatoes with measurable amounts of BPA in the lacquer has decreased.

In 2016 the Danish Consumer Council THINK Chemicals made the first test of canned tomatoes. In the 2016-test only 3 out of 8 cans were free of bisphenol A. In the recent test 9 out of 13 are good choices.

Furthermore, some of the brands which in 2016 contained BPA are now free of the substance. Others now only contain BADGE but not bisphenol A.

Coop is the only brand from the 2016 test that two years later still contains bisphenol A in the can. Coop states that the tested can has been discontinued and replaced by a cardboard box without bisphenols.

Read about all tests performed by the Danish Consumer Council THINK Chemicals

Danish Consumer Council Think Chemicals: Fewer cans with BPA are good news

"Our new test shows that there are fewer cans of tomatoes containing bisphenol A than when we tested in 2016. This indicates that several companies are phasing out the use of bisphenol A in tomato cans. Good news for Danish consumers that this source of exposure to bisphenol A now appears to be reduced."

Stine Müller, Project Manager at the Consumer Council Think Chemicals

For further questions contact project manager Stine Müller on sm@fbr.dk

How we tested

The Danish Consumer Council Think Chemicals has sent 13 cans of chopped tomatoes in cans for chemical testing at a laboratory.

The cans have been tested for content of the following substances:

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

The coating inside the cans have been analyzed whereas the content of the substances directly in the tomatoes themselves was not measured.

Bisphenol A can migrate from food packaging to the food. Research studies have shown that bisphenol A is also found in food from cans.

Therefore, the best way to avoid the unwanted substance in the food is not to use them in the cans.

How we conduct tests in The Danish Consumer Council THINK Chemicals

What did we find?

In the test

  • 9 cans were free of bisphenols and BADGE
  • 2 cans contained both bisphenol A and BADGE. These cans receive the lowest rating of the test.
  • 2 cans contained BADGE without any content of bisphenol A. These products receive an average chemical score.

The test showed no finding of bisphenol S and F.

Levels of bisphenol

The content of bisphenol A in the 2 cans was 2.9 and 4 micrograms per can.

The content of BADGE in the 4 cans ranged from 3.8 to 43 micrograms per can.

The contents of bisphenol A and BADGE in the cans are relatively low compared to the existing limit value for plastic. This does not apply to the inner coating in cans.

The content of bisphenol A in the tested cans is also below the coming lowered limit (September 2018) which will also apply to lacquers in cans (See info below).

Bisphenol A and BADGE

Bisphenol A is an endocrine disruptor in humans and is on EUs candidate list of substances of very high concern (SVHC).

Research shows that the substance may also have adverse effects on the immune system.

The effects of bisphenol A are particularly adverse for fetuses and children under development. Therefore, it is of particularly importance to protect small children and fetuses against unnecessary exposure to bisphenol A.

The Danish Food and Veterinary Agency recommends as a precaution that pregnant and young children avoid bisphenol A when possible.

Both bisphenol A and BADGE are prohibited in Denmark in packaging for food intended for children under 3 years.

EU has also adopted a ban of BPA in food contact materials for baby food. At the same time a lower migration limit of BPA from plastic has been approved that will also apply to coatings inside cans.

See the Commissions regulation on BPA that will enter into force in September 2018.

Already in 2015 France banned the use of bisphenol A in all food packaging.

BADGE is on the Danish EPA's list of unwanted substances (LOUS) and the substance is under EUs Community rolling action plan (CoRAP).

What the companies say

Dagrofa, responsible for First Price chopped tomatoes:

"The testresults confirm the current status of our canned tomatoes. Dagrofa has at the end of 2017 decided to require absence of all types of bisphenols in all private label food packaging in direct contact with the food. The requirement is not yet implemented for all foods, but it will appear in all new contracts onwards. The tested level of bisphenols in First Price tomatoes is significantly below the current limit values and, more importantly, below the forthcoming tightened regulatory limit values. Bisphenols will be fully phased out - also in First Price. "

Karin Frøidt, Dagrofa Quality Department

Coop, responsible of Coop Chopped tomatoes:

"For several years we have been working on phasing out bispenols from all our own brands with a deadline by the end of 2018. Coop Chopped tomatoes contain bisphenol A as it is produced through an agreement with the manufacture before we introduced the ban on bisphenol A. The product has now been discontinued and it is replaced by a more sustainable packaging without bisphenols. It is now delivered in an FSC-certified paperbox. Overall, we are very close to having phased out bisphenols from over 100 different cans from our own brands. However, it is important to be aware that cans in general have long durability and therefore some products will be on the shelves for a long time. All our organic private label products (Irma, Änglamark and 365) have been completely free of bisphenols since summer 2017. "

Malene Teller Blume, Quality Manager in Coop Denmark