Toxic BPA still used to line food cans | Breast Cancer UK

NEWS: Toxic BPA still used to line food cans

Published 30 Mar 2016

Breast Cancer UK today called on tinned food manufacturers to take more robust steps to eliminate Bisphenol A (BPA) from all food packaging, following the publication of a report by a group of NGOs in the US which revealed that 67% of tinned foods they tested contained epoxy-based BPA resins.

The study, which was conceived, authored and produced by a collaboration of US and Canadian NGOs, including Breast Cancer Fund, Campaign for Healthier Solutions and Clean Production Action, tested nearly 200 cans and lids of tinned food products from well-known international food brands, for the presence of BPA, to find out the extent to which it is still being used in coatings.   The results are alarming: despite commitments from several major international food companies to phase out and substitute BPA with safer alternatives (1), BPA was found in the majority of tinned food linings examined. 

The continued use of BPA in food packaging is a concern because there is significant evidence to show that even low levels of exposure to BPA can have an adverse effect on the development of breast tissue (2) and many studies have linked exposures to BPA to an increased susceptibility to tumors and malignancy (3).

Lynn Ladbrook, CEO of Breast Cancer UK explains, ‘Although this is a US study – it is disappointing to find that despite commitments made a number of years ago to phase out BPA in epoxy resin linings of tinned food, large quantities remain in the US market.  BPA is authorised for use in food packaging in the EU and many of the products tested came from well-known international brands which have a presence here in the UK. We believe there is sufficient scientific evidence to show that even low level exposure to BPA has an adverse effect on breast tissue'. 

Breast Cancer UK has long campaigned for a ban on the use of BPA in food and drinks packaging, due to its potential role in increasing breast cancer risk. We urge food retailers to push on with the phase out of BPA and to substitute it with safer alternatives.

The report also suggests that a number of manufacturers still appear to have no clear policy in place to eliminate BPA from their tinned food, despite a number of public commitments to do so back in 2010 (4).   Moreover, where commitments have been made (5), it remains unclear as to what chemical compounds substitutes will contain and whether these will be any safer for consumers.  Food manufacturers have a duty to ensure that food contact materials are not toxic or damaging to human health and the environment‘.

Breast Cancer UK will be writing to the UK subsidiaries of the brands tested, to see what their policy is on the elimination of BPA in food contact materials (6). 

In the meantime, we urge consumers to source alternatives to tinned foods if they are concerned that they may contain BPA, or to write to manufacturers themselves to seek reassurance. 

Send your responses to us

Read more about the links between breast cancer and Bisphenol A (BPA)

Further information

Download Buyer Beware: Toxic BPA & Regrettable Substitutes in the Linings of Canned Food

Download Breast Cancer Fund response to Campbell’s going “BPA Free by 2017”


Buyer Beware: Toxic BPA & Regrettable Substitutes in the Linings of Canned Food (#BPA #ToxicFoodCans) was conceived and authored by the Breast Cancer Fund; Campaign for Healthier Solutions; Clean Production Action; Ecology Center; Environmental Defence (Canada); and Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families’ Mind the Store campaign.


1. Marten Hickman (2010). Major producers to ditch BPA from packaging. Health News: The Independent, published Nov 1, 2010 . (accessed March 22, 2016).

2. Pfeifer D, et al. (2015). Effects of low-dose bisphenol A on DNA damage and proliferation of breast cells: the role of c-Myc. Environmental Health Perspectives 123:1271–1279.

3. Seachrist, D. D. et al. (2015). A review of the carcinogenic potential of bisphenol A. Reproductive Toxicology 59: 167-182.

4. Hickman, M. op cit

5. In an announcement made yesterday (29/03/2016)  Campbells made a further commitment to phase out BPA from tins by 2017 in their American and Canadian portfolio.  It is not yet clear whether this move will also apply to UK products.   It is also not yet clear whether Campbells will provide full safety data on the chemical compounds used in its chosen substitutes. 

6. The EU is currently consulting on a set of options aimed at simplifying legislation governing the use of Bisphenol A in food contact materials.  It includes a proposal to restrict its use altogether, however, unless manufacturers support such a proposal it seems unlikely that this option will be chosen.  DG Sante (the lead responsible for the consultation) does not favour a complete ban due to concerns that it may place undue “administrative and practical burdens on industry.” 

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