Spoiler Alert: I don’t think so, FDA! BPA, also known as bisphenol-a, is the carbon-based synthetic chemical used in the production of plastic materials such as food can liners, cash register tape, and plastic food containers. The questionable safety of BPA has been a hot topic since before the FDA banned the chemical from being used in baby bottles and sippy cups in 2012 and then again from infant formula packaging in 2013, despite the agency’s assurances that the current levels of BPA used in consumer food and product packaging are safe–hmm.
Miniscule levels of BPA have been found to leak into some food products (especially more acidic canned products such as tomatoes) and thus unknowingly consumed by people, which has raised a major health concern, since undoubtedly no one wants to be eating synthetic carbon-based chemicals with their canned beans. Along with a truckload of other problems linked to BPA, most recently (and more disturbingly), evidence has been found that BPA exposure in pregnant women exponentially increases chances of their unborn children having diminished lung function, decreased lung function and breathing problems in the future. Again, though the FDA openly admits consumers are exposed (against their will, of course, since packages containing BPA don’t have to be labelled accordingly) to low levels of BPA, they assure the chemical is perfectly safe for ingestion.
Several organic and natural food and consumer product manufacturers have taken the extra step to ban BPA from their products to ensure consumer safety. BentoBits lunch boxes, Amy’s Foods, Muir Glen canned tomatoes, Eden Foods, and bioNature foods’ products are all guaranteed BPA-free, and other food suppliers are working to source BPA-free can liners and food packages for the future.
via markmorgantrinidad on flickr
On the other hand, proponents of BPA maintain that the chemical is helpful because it prevents spoiling and increases products’ shelf lives. Additionally, other countries that have outlawed many harmful chemicals and crap we still add to our foods here in the U.S. have not yet outlawed BPA, so that must be saying something. According to Erik Telford from the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity, the BPA hype has been caused by nothing but overzealous environmentalist advocates and a a recent over-funding ($170 million since 2000) of NIH-sponsored BPA research, funded by–gasp–our tax dollars.
Overall, consumers’ safety concerns and responses to the use of BPA have been largely negative and distrusting of the government. But whichever side you “believe” in the debate over BPA, at the end of the day the most important thing to do is stay informed and exercise your power to choose. BPA-free options for traditionally chemical-laden plastic products and canned goods are becoming more widely available, and as more research emerges and more detractors protest this potentially harmful material, we will (hopefully) begin building toward a future where synthetic, carbon-based chemicals are not slowly leaking into our foods.