What is BPA?
BPA (bisphenol A) is an industrial chemical used to make certain plastics and resins since the 1960s. Today, it is found in polycarbonate plastics, used in containers for foods and beverages and water bottles, and epoxy resins, used to coat the inside of metal products, such as food cans, bottle tops, and water supply lines. Some dental sealants and composites also may contain BPA.
BPA serves as a lining in metal cans to protect the can from corrosion or pitting when exposed to acidic foods, such as tomatoes. The lining ultimately protects the consumer from exposure to metals.
BPA Health Concerns
Over the past several years, scientists and consumers have become more concerned about the safe use of BPA in food packaging. As a result, many exploratory scientific studies have been conducted. Some have raised questions about the safety of ingesting low levels of BPA that can migrate into food from food contact materials. The National Toxicology Program, partnering with FDA’s National Center for Toxicological Research, is carrying out in-depth studies to answer key questions about BPA.
FDA’s Perspective on BPA Safety
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released scientific assessments of BPA use in food contact applications in 2008, 2009, 2012, and 2014. In the fall of 2014, FDA experts from across the agency, specializing in toxicology, analytical chemistry, endocrinology, epidemiology, and other fields, completed a four-year review of more than 300 scientific studies on BPA.
FDA’s current perspective, based on its most recent safety assessment, is that BPA is safe at the current levels occurring in foods. Based on FDA’s ongoing safety review of scientific evidence, the available information continues to support the safety of BPA for the currently approved uses in food containers and packaging.
“The Food and Drug Administration’s assessment is that the scientific evidence at this time does not suggest that the very low levels of human exposure to BPA through the diet are unsafe. The agency has performed extensive research on BPA, has reviewed hundreds of other studies, and is continuing to address questions and potential concerns raised by certain studies. FDA scientists have also recently determined that exposure to BPA through foods for infants is much less than had been previously believed and that the trace amounts of the chemical that enter the body, whether it’s an adult or a child, are rapidly metabolized and eliminated.” FDA statement
The FDA continues to review the available research on BPA.
EPFSA’s Perspective on BPA
The European Food Safety Authority (EPFSA) agrees with FDA in their evaluation of BPA, reporting that there is no consumer health risk from BPA exposure. EFSA’s comprehensive re-evaluation of BPA exposure and toxicity concludes that BPA poses no health risk to consumers of any age group (including unborn children, infants and adolescents) at current exposure levels. Exposure from the diet or from a combination of sources (diet, dust, cosmetics and thermal paper) is considerably under the safe level.
Solutions for BPA in the Tomato Industry
Even though FDA has deemed current levels of BPA exposure through food contact safe, the tomato industry is actively engaged in finding other solutions to protect consumers. Many manufacturers of processed tomato products have already removed BPA from the lining of their cans. If you are concerned about BPA exposure, you can contact the manufacturers of your favorite tomato products to determine if they use BPA in their cans. In addition, you can purchase tomato products in other packaging materials, such as glass and cardboard.
Keep Consuming Healthful Tomato Products
Though the presence of BPA might concern you, it’s important to continue to include all forms of vegetables—fresh, canned, frozen, and dried—in your diet. Studies show that only 9% of Americans meet their vegetable requirement, and vegetable consumption has been linked with the reduction of many chronic diseases. Tomatoes are the second most popular vegetable—second only to potatoes—thus including them in the diet can help people achieve their vegetable intake goal.
In particular, tomatoes are of special nutritional significance in the diet. One of the most researched foods on the planet, more than 650 scientific studies have been conducted on tomatoes, indicating an array of health benefits, such as reduced risk of heart disease and prostate cancer, as well as bone and skin protection. Tomato products contain a symphony of nutrients—vitamins, minerals, fiber, and phytochemicals—that fight oxidative stress and inflammation in the body. Lycopene, the primary carotenoid compound found in tomatoes, is more bioavailable when it is in its cooked form, such as in processed tomatoes. The body of research over the past two decades demonstrating the benefits of processed tomato products in the diet was conducted using tomato products in the current marketplace, which includes modern canning techniques with BPA linings. Most health experts continue to suggest that incorporating servings of vegetables, such as tomatoes, is more important than avoiding them due to concerns over BPA.