Today is the 200th anniversary of Peter Durand’s patent for preserving food in tin cans. Patent number 3372 was granted on August 25, 1810 by King George III of England.
Canning is an incredible feat of mankind. It allows produce and other food to be preserved at the peak of its freshness to be consumed anytime and anywhere. It served as “on the go” food for soldiers and prevented sailors at sea from developing scurvy.
However, early in their history, cans were sealed with lead solder. During the 1845 Northwest Passage expedition much of Sir John Franklin’s crew members suffered from severe lead poisoning after three years of eating canned food.
Those days are long past, but recently cans have come under fire for another toxic reason.
Bisphenol-A (BPA) is an industrial, toxic compound that is a component of polycarbonate plastics and epoxy resins. It is a component of the epoxy resin liner used in almost all metal food cans and drink cans. BPA enters the food through leaching. Of the cans tested by the Environmental Working Group, chicken soup, infant formula and ravioli had the highest BPA levels, and over half of all cans tested had detectable levels of BPA.
In various studies, BPA has shown to be toxic at low doses and has been linked to cancer, birth defects, miscarriages, obesity, and insulin resistance. BPA is an endocrine disruptor capable of mimicking the body’s own hormones. The greatest risk for negative health effects is during early development; this is especially concerning for women of childbearing age, infants and young children.
It’s time to get BPA out of our cans. In the mean time, there are ways to limit your exposure to BPA. Children and pregnant women should avoid exposure to BPA by limiting consumption of foods in metal cans. Select powdered infant formula instead of liquid infant formula. Avoid canned pastas and soups; rinsed canned fruit or vegetables prior to heating or serving. And avoid the use of plastic food or drink containers with recycling number 7. These recommendations can be found in more detail on the Environmental Working Group website.