The convenience that canned food brings makes it a staple in the grocery store aisle. Need proof? The next time you are at the store, take a walk up each of the rows and note the number of cans. They line the shelves as a quick and simple solution for produce, grain and proteins, but with a hidden risk that could turn an otherwise healthy choice into a medical misfortune.
The culprit? A relatively illusive culprit named Bisphenol-A, or BPA, an industrial chemical used since the 1960s to protect cans ingredients from contamination. While BPA keeps canned food items fresh for longer, there are significant health risks associated with exposure, including heart disease and cancer.
Below, we explore a few options to keep your kitchen BPA-free, as well as a few tips on how to bring the canning process out of the factory and into your home.
Do Your Research—Check Container Labels and Bottoms
Unfortunately, many canned good companies are not disclosing their usage of BPA, or known alternatives—which can keep consumers in the dark. Read labels and check the bottom and lids of cans for any evidence of the packaging process.
Labels seem to provide no help? Conduct a few simple searches on the brand names you purchase most in association with BPA risk. Note if others are talking about their BPA usage or not. Bloggers and food industry critics alike are keeping tabs on this issue and its impacts on your shopping cart—providing tips to keep your family safe. Inspiration Green, for example, shares a list of cans with, or without, known traces of BPA.
Kick the Can—Consider Alternatives in Your Grocery Aisle
If you can afford to do so, it may be worth eliminating store-bought canned goods from your cart completely. Consider the alternatives:
- Beans: Purchase dried in the bulk section and soak overnight before cooking.
- Soup: Go for boxed options over canned.
- Veggies: Buy fresh, frozen, or in glass jars over aluminum cans.
- Fruit: Select fresh or dried over canned options.
The Breast Cancer Fund provides these and more tips to avoid BPA in a post on risk prevention.
Take the Time to Bring the Process In-House
Want more control over how the canning process is handled? Serious eats does a great job of breaking down the basics of canning for beginners should you decided to take on the task at home. A few highlights:
- Gather needed supplies. This could include tongs, wide-month funnel, measuring cups, a jar lifter, and as many mason jars or canning vessels as you will need to contain items you wish to can. Read labels on the items you select, and select BPA-free, if at all possible.
- Leave room for lid space. As you fill jars with product, leave a little room for sealed lids to avoid excess spills as lids compress.
- Note needed boil times. The amount of time it will take for items to vacuum seal can vary from recipe to recipe. Note specific times needed and keep an eye on the clock.
What measures do you take to buy the freshest and safest canned food options for your family? Share in the comment section below.
Image Source: Ishikawa Ken under Creative Commons Attribution Generic 2.0