Since I’m part Italian, I‘ve used canned tomatoes all my life. If you come from an Italian family, you’re probably familiar with the family “discussions” over the best canned brand and type. Sure, there were the purists who only used fresh or jarred their own, but canned tomatoes have always been a great convenience.
Sometime in the last century, manufacturers started lining cans with a white material to keep the metal from being discolored by acidic foods (like tomatoes…). Big discussions over whether that changed the taste of the tomatoes, too, but eventually it was a moot point. It’s hard to find a can now without the white lining.
Turns out that lining, made with epoxy resins, leeches into the food in the can creating very high levels of BPA – a plastic everyone is freaking out about lately. And with good reason. BPA is highly carcinogenic in large quantities.
If the only source for you was canned tomatoes, there probably isn’t much to worry about. But BPA has been used in containers, plastic plates and tumblers, water bottles – you name it. The good news is that some manufacturers are getting rid of their white lined cans, particularly the “organic” lines (Muir Glen is one). Bad news is that they’re likely to be more costly than the “white” alternative.
Here are some tips to avoid BPA exposure:
- Avoid canned goods for acidic foods. Besides tomatoes, that includes fruits (citrus, pineapple, berries…) and canned soups or sauces (like BBQ or salsa) with tomato bases. Also avoid canned sodas and juices. If possible, find alternatives packaged in glass.
- Don’t use plastic to store acidic foods. Glass is better. I bought a bunch of cheap mason jars (those ones used for canning) to store foods in the refrigerator or freezer.
- Glass is better for long term storage of any food but is heavy and bulky for large storage. Look for large metal tins to store things like flour, sugar and cereals. Put some parchment or wax paper over the top of the tin before putting the cover on for extra sealing power.
- Don’t heat plastic plates, serving pieces or cups. That means hand wash only and don’t put it in the microwave at all. If you’ve got small ones around and don’t want to use china or glass, look for microwave save, BPA free plastic products. Nordicware and Progressive make plastic products that are BPA free and microwave and top rack dishwasher safe.
Photo by joshbousel