Revealed: the nasty secret in your kitchen cupboard

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

18 of 20 most popular tins made with controversial bisphenol A in lining

Some of Britain's best-known foods contain the controversial chemical bisphenol A, The Independent can reveal.

Tins of Heinz baked beans, soup and beans, John West and Princes fish, and Napolina tomatoes are lined with a membrane containing bisphenol A, or BPA, a molecule of which is pictured top left. Other companies using it in their tins include the biggest retailers in the UK, Tesco, Sainsbury's and Asda, who use it for tins of tuna and sardines.

Britain's Food Standards Agency (FSA) has given the chemical the all-clear, in contrast to the US Food and Drug Administration, which in January expressed concern over its impact on the brains and development of young children and said it was "taking reasonable steps to reduce human exposure" to it in the food supply. After the American U-turn, the EU-funded European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) launched and is still carrying out a review of BPA.

Some scientists fear that exposure to minute doses of the chemical in food and other products may be damaging to the health of individuals.

BPA is an endocrine disruptor that interrupts hormones and, in laboratory experiments on animals, has been linked with breast cancer, prostate cancer, hyperactivity and other metabolic and behavioural problems, diseases which are all on the rise in the West. But the plastics and chemicals industries insist its use is safe and accuse campaigners of misleading the public, pointing to industry-funded studies involving large numbers of rodents that have shown no harm.

At stake is the future of one of the highest production volume chemicals in the world. BPA is widely used to harden the plastic casings of mobile phones and computers and makes baby bottles shatterproof. In food products, it commonly lines the inside of cans and tins to protect their contents from being contaminated by the metal.

To establish its prevalence in food, The Independent surveyed manufacturers of the UK's 20 best-selling tinned foods. Although it is not stated on tins, BPA is used in the linings of 18 out of the 20 products, which have combined annual sales of £921m, or 43 per cent of UK tinned food sales. All the companies said their products were safe because the levels of BPA leaching out into food were so low that they were safe.

However Heinz said it was looking to phase out BPA once alternatives could be found. In a statement, the US tinned food giant said: "Although UK and European food authorities have stated that minute levels of BPA in can coatings are safe, Heinz remains committed to moving to alternatives. For beans, pasta and many soups a protective coating is only applied to the can ends which would not provide any trace of BPA or would be at the limit of detection of a few parts per billion. This compares with the safe legal limit of 600 parts per billion. Heinz continues to advance research into alternative coatings in response to consumer opinion but safety remains our first priority before making any changes."

Princes, the tinned fish company which also owns the Napolina brand, said: "The inside of most food cans requires a protective coating. Bisphenol A (BPA) is used industry wide as a component part of this coating. It is an approved food contact material and there is guidance from both the FSA and the EFSA regarding its use."

John West said: "Some of John West's tinned products are lined with a lacquer that contains a derivate of Bisphenol. By contact tiny amounts of Bisphenol-A are able to migrate within the EU regulation limits." Baxters, the Scottish soup-maker, said its cans contained "minute" amounts of BPA at levels "substantially lower" than that approved by the EFSA.

Tesco, Sainsbury's and Asda, and other producers such as Premier Foods, General Mills and Hormel Foods, the US company which makes Spam, insisted their tins were safe and produced in accordance with current safety regulations.

Tinned drinks also include a membrane with BPA. A spokeswoman for Coca-Cola UK confirmed: "We use BPA in the linings of our cans. Our top priority is to ensure the safety and quality of our products and packaging through rigorous standards that meet or exceed government requirements... All available scientific evidence and testing shows that drinks in aluminium and steel cans are safe."

According to the FSA, studies have shown that BPA is not harmful to laboratory animals when fed in amounts equivalent to more than exposure levels in humans. However the last review of the safety of BPA in tinned foods in Britain was eight years ago by the Committee on Toxicity. Since then several peer-reviewed scientific studies have detected low-dose effects on animals. These low-dose effects are not currently recognised by British or European regulators.

Breast Cancer UK is among several campaigning organisations which wants to see reductions in BPA used in food and other products. Claire Dimmer, chair of trustees, said: "We welcome the research that the food packaging industry is undertaking to find potential BPA alternatives. But these efforts need to be stepped up significantly. " She called on manufacturers to introduce clear BPA labelling – "otherwise it's impossible for us to make a decision on ways of limiting our and our families exposure to this chemical."

TOP 20: BRITAIN'S MOST POPULAR TINNED FOODS

Brand / Maker/ Contains BPA?

1. Heinz classic soup / Heinz / YES

2. John West canned fish / John West / YES

3. Heinz Baked Beans / Heinz / YES

4. Princes canned fish / Princes / YES

5. Napolina tomato products / Princes / YES

6 Branston Baked Beans / Premier Foods / YES

7. Tesco canned fish / Tesco / YES

8. Sainsbury canned fish / Sainsburys / YES

9. Green Giant Niblets / General Mills / YES

10. Princes Corned Beef / Princes / YES

11. Fray Bentos canned pies / Premier Foods / YES

12. Heinz Big Soup / Heinz / YES

13. Baxters Favourites Soup / Baxters / YES

14. Tesco Value tomato products / Tesco / NO

15. Asda canned fish / Asda / YES

16. Spam Chopped Ham/Pork / Spam / YES

17. Heinz Long Spaghetti / Heinz / YES

18 Heinz Beans with Pork Sausages / Heinz / YES

19 Tesco Value canned fish / Tesco / YES

20. Tesco canned fruit / Tesco / NO

Sources: Kantor Worldpanel and The Independent

PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Extras
indybest
Travel
Flocking round: Beyoncé, Madame Tussauds' latest waxwork, looking fierce in the park
travelIn a digital age when we have more access than ever to the stars, why are waxworks still pulling in crowds?
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Judi Dench appeared at the Hay Festival to perform excerpts from Shakespearean plays
tvJudi Dench and Hugh Bonneville join Benedict Cumberbatch in BBC Shakespeare adaptations
Sport
Is this how Mario Balotelli will cruise into Liverpool?
football
News
Ronahi Serhat, a PKK fighter, in the Qandil Mountains in Iraqi Kurdistan
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Poet’s corner: Philip Larkin at the venetian window of his home in 1958
booksOr caring, playful man who lived for others? A new book has the answer
Arts and Entertainment
Exhibition at the Centre Pompidou in Metz - 23 May 2012
art
News
Matthew McConaughey and his son Levi at the game between the Boston Red Sox and the Houston Astros at Fenway Park on August 17, 2014 in Boston, Massachusetts.
advertisingOscar-winner’s Lincoln deal is latest in a lucrative ad production line
Life and Style
Pick of the bunch: Sudi Pigott puts together roasted tomatoes with peppers, aubergines and Labneh cheese for a tomato-inspired vegetarian main dish
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Alfred Molina, left, and John Lithgow in a scene from 'Love Is Strange'
film
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    Oracle 11g SQL 2008 DBA (Unix, Oracle RAC, Mirroring, Replicati

    £6000 - £50000 per annum + Bonus+Benefits+Package: Harrington Starr: Oracle 11...

    Recruitment Consultant (Graduate Trainee), Finchley Central

    £17K OTE £30K: Charter Selection: Highly successful and innovative specialist...

    SQL DBA/ C# Developer - T-SQL, C#.Net

    £45000 - £55000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Working with an exciting ...

    Sales and Office Administrator – Sports Media

    £23,000: Sauce Recruitment: A global leader in sports and entertainment is now...

    Day In a Page

    Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

    Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

    The President came the nearest he has come yet to rivalling George W Bush’s gormless reaction to 9/11 , says Robert Fisk
    Ebola outbreak: Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on the virus

    Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on Ebola

    A Christian charity’s efforts to save missionaries trapped in Africa by the crisis have been justifiably praised. But doubts remain about its evangelical motives
    Jeremy Clarkson 'does not see a problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC

    Not even Jeremy Clarkson is bigger than the BBC, says TV boss

    Corporation’s head of television confirms ‘Top Gear’ host was warned about racist language
    Nick Clegg the movie: Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise

    Nick Clegg the movie

    Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise
    Philip Larkin: Misogynist, racist, miserable? Or caring, playful man who lived for others?

    Philip Larkin: What will survive of him?

    Larkin's reputation has taken a knocking. But a new book by James Booth argues that the poet was affectionate, witty, entertaining and kind, as hitherto unseen letters, sketches and 'selfies' reveal
    Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?

    Waxing lyrical

    Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?
    Texas forensic astronomer finally pinpoints the exact birth of impressionism

    Revealed (to the minute)

    The precise time when impressionism was born
    From slow-roasted to sugar-cured: how to make the most of the British tomato season

    Make the most of British tomatoes

    The British crop is at its tastiest and most abundant. Sudi Pigott shares her favourite recipes
    10 best men's skincare products

    Face it: 10 best men's skincare products

    Oscar Quine cleanses, tones and moisturises to find skin-savers blokes will be proud to display on the bathroom shelf
    Malky Mackay allegations: Malky Mackay, Iain Moody and another grim day for English football

    Mackay, Moody and another grim day for English football

    The latest shocking claims do nothing to dispel the image that some in the game on these shores exist in a time warp, laments Sam Wallace
    La Liga analysis: Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

    Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

    Pete Jenson starts his preview of the Spanish season, which begins on Saturday, by explaining how Fifa’s transfer ban will affect the Catalans
    Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

    We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

    Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
    Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

    Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

    Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
    Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

    The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

    Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
    Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

    Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

    Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape