10 Canned Goods Watchdog Groups Say You Should Stop Buying—and Healthier Alternatives
Yes, they're made of metal. But canned goods are commonly lined with something. If it's Bisphenol A, better known as BPA, it has potential health complications ranging from weight gain to cancer. Here's how you can find better-for-you options.
Canned tomatoes and sauces
The FDA, based on its most recent safety assessment, has deemed levels of BPA in canned foods safe for human consumption, but watchdog organizations still warn that BPA negatively affects health. In response to consumer demand, the tomato industry has changed its practices, and today at least 90 percent of all retail processed tomato products do not use BPA. This may be especially important with acidic foods because they leach out the BPA more than other foods—when BPA is present, canned tomatoes and tomato sauces tend to test higher in BPA content, according to Consumer Reports. Alternate packaging, such as tomato sauces in glass jars or chopped tomatoes in boxed containers lessen the amount of BPA content. For example, the brands Pomi and Cirio package their chopped tomatoes and tomato sauce in boxes. Many marinara varieties are available in glass jars. Tomato paste, although not shown to be high in BPA, can be purchased in tubes rather than cans—look for the brands San Marzano, Mutti, Amore, and Cento. When purchasing canned tomatoes, look for packaging with the phrase “BPA Free.”
Health Canada, the government health department, reported that canned tuna contained the highest amount of BPA among a wide variety of canned foods. Fortunately for tuna lovers, shelf-stable pouches provide an alternative to the canned version. Popular brands Chicken of the Sea, Bumble Bee, and Starkist sell tuna pouches.
To avoid BPA in your chili and burritos, choose dried beans over canned. While they take a bit longer to prepare, your pinto and black beans will be healthier. Try using a pressure cooker to reduce cooking time of dried beans. Or, cook dried beans in bulk and freeze in one to two cup portions for later use. Dried beans boast high nutrition content in an economical choice.
Soups and stews
Due to the variety of ingredients and recipes for canned soups, stews and entrees, the BPA content varies widely. Health Canada reported the highest BPA levels in Campbell’s brand of canned soups. Consumer Reports found that packaging soups in juice-box-type or plastic containers with peel-off metal lids decreases, but does not eliminate BPA from the food. Tomato-based pasta soups, such as Chef Boyardee’s Beef Ravioli in Tomato Meat Sauce and Spaghetti and Meatballs, contain BPA despite the type of packaging. In fact, the plastic container of the beef ravioli had more BPA than the canned variety. Steer clear of these processed soups and choose homemade healthier soups and stews.
The Environmental Working Group‘s comprehensive database includes organic and non-organic canned or bottled salsa on their list of foods that may contain BPA. With the acidic contents of salsa (think tomatoes, onions, and peppers), even the metal jar top appears to contribute to the BPA present in the popular condiment. Homemade salsa from fresh ingredients is your best bet.
Although fancy artsy canned beer is making a resurgence in popularity among craft breweries, the BPA may not be worth it. Reports in the Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture and the Journal of Food Protection demonstrated BPA in beer from cans. Opt for glass bottled beer or draught. Did you know you can do more with beer than drink it? Check out these unexpected uses for beer.
Those super fun aerosol spray cans of whipped cream contain BPA, per the Environmental Working Group. Other foods in aerosol cans, such as squirty processed cheese and cooking oil sprays, may contain BPA. Select fresh cheese for your snacks, liquid oils to grease your pans, and make your own fresh whipped cream. Find out what your favorite cheese says about your personality.