2011 – 2012 Bisphenol A in Canned Foods

Executive Summary

The Food Safety Action Plan (FSAP) aims to modernize and enhance Canada's food safety system. As a part of the FSAP enhanced surveillance initiative, targeted surveys are used to test various foods for specific chemical and microbiological hazards.

The main objective of this targeted survey was to generate baseline surveillance data on the levels of bisphenol A (BPA) in canned fruits, juices, beverages, vegetables, legumes, pasta, and soup available on the Canadian retail market.

BPA is a chemical used in the production of polycarbonate and epoxy resins. Food and beverage packaging, particularly metal cans, may be internally coated with epoxy resins to protect food from direct contact with metal. BPA can migrate from the epoxy coatings into food, particularly at elevated temperatures (e.g., in hot-filled or heat-processed canned foods). Elevated BPA concentrations have been associated with products contained in syrups, sauces (i.e., tomato sauce), and salted water.

Health Canada has concluded that the current dietary exposure to BPA through food packaging is not expected to pose a health risk to the general population, including newborns and young children. This conclusion has been re-affirmed by other international food regulatory agencies, including those of Canada's major trading partners. As a result, the use of BPA in food packaging materials has not been prohibited in Canada. Health Canada has recommended that the general principle of ALARA (as low as reasonably achievable) be applied by food packaging manufacturers and food processors to limit dietary BPA exposure from food packaging, particularly for products consumed by infants and newborns.

The 2011-2012 BPA survey targeted domestic and imported canned fruits, juices, beverages, vegetables, legumes, pasta, and soup. A total of 403 samples were collected from retail stores in 11 Canadian cities between April 2011 and March 2012. The samples collected included 101 fruit products, 50 juices/beverages, 151 vegetables/legumes, and 101 pastas/soups. Only canned products were sampled, as these products are likely to have epoxy coatings.

Bisphenol A was not detected in 98.5% of the survey samples. BPA was detected in six samples in this survey (one pasta in tomato sauce, three whole-style cut carrots, one tender peas, and one cream-style corn). BPA was not detected in any of the fruit products, juices, beverages, or soups. There are no Canadian regulations or maximum levels (tolerances or standards) for BPA in foods sold in Canada, so compliance to a numerical standard could not be assessed. The results were evaluated and, where appropriate, Health Canada was consulted on the observed BPA levels. None of the samples were determined to pose a concern to human health. Appropriate follow-up actions were initiated that reflected the magnitude of the human health concern.

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