Eden Foods became alarmed by the toxicity of bisphenol-A (BPA) in cans and food packaging long before it made it to mainstream news. Since April of 1999, Eden beans have featured a custom made can lined with an oleoresinous c-enamel that does not contain the endocrine disrupter BPA. Oleoresin is a mixture of oil and resin extracted from plants such as pine or balsam fir.
In 1997 Eden became aware of alarming European (EU) research about toxic effects of bisphenol-A (BPA), and one of the most common sources of it was in the linings of every kind of food can. This grabbed Eden's attention because we own and operate a food cannery in east-central Indiana. Eden contacted its three can suppliers asking if BPA was in the cans they were selling to them. Eden was told that they were seeking proprietary, trade secret information and that they could not disclose the requested specifics about the can lining being supplied.
Smoke and Mirrors Spin
"I was flabbergasted that legally, I had no right to know. I had no right to know as a food manufacturer, a consumer, a parent, or a grandparent," says Mr. Potter, Eden's president. In general the can manufacturers gave only "half information and half answers" and were all in lockstep pointing at government and industry reports touting claims that BPA was safe. After hundreds of phone calls made over more than 18 months attempting to gather information, one can supplier, the Ball Corporation, must have realized that Eden Foods was not going to go away. Their tone changed, and although they didn't disclose the chemistry specifics that Eden sought regarding can lining composition, they began to educate Eden on complex chemistry involved in achieving can linings, and how this led to BPA in the can linings.
Eden Foods asked Ball Corporation the logical question, "What did you use before this BPA containing can lining?" They told us about vegetable resin enamel that was previously used. Naturally we asked if we could get cans using this enamel lining, and what the cost might be to do so. Eventually the answer was yes, but at a significantly higher cost. Eden agreed to pay a 14% higher price for BPA-free lined cans, and bisphenol-A free cans were made for Eden early in 1999. Eden Foods knew that this was not a numbers issue, but a moral and ethical one. After all, they were feeding this food to their children.
"You can tell a lot about someone in what they do when no one's looking."
Eden Foods only recently began to indicate on its canned bean, rice & bean, refried bean, and chili labels that they are BPA-free, because only recently would anyone seeing it have any idea what was being indicated. Recent public awareness of BPA being linked to a long list of deleterious effects including cancer, reproductive abnormalities and infertility, metabolic disorder including diabetes, obesity, and attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) now makes doing so appropriate. The public is now demanding toxic free food packaging. Other companies are only now considering making adjustments.
"…not a numbers issue, but a moral and ethical one."
The cost of avoiding BPA containing food cans continues to increase. In 1999 the cost to Eden was a 14% premium. As of April 2012, Eden Foods pays 21%, 39%, and 34% more for our 15, 29, and 108 ounce cans respectively.
BPA Free Amber Glass Jars
Although we successfully achieved a BPA free alternative for low-acid food such as beans, the canning industry has no suitable (in our opinion) can for high-acid food like tomatoes. After years of trying to realize one, Eden chose to move its canned tomatoes into amber glass jars to avoid BPA. In 2011 Eden moved a third of its tomatoes to amber glass, away from cans. The cans still have a baked on r-enamel. Due to the acids in tomato, the lining is epoxy based and does contain a minute amount of BPA. It is however in the 'non-detectable' range according to Eden's independent laboratory extraction tests. The test was based on a detection level of 5 ppb (parts per billion). Our goal is zero.
A search for a lid for the glass jars again confirmed 'there's no such thing as the perfect food package.' Regardless, we found the best there is. The inside of the twist caps has two coats of sealer between the food and the metal of the cap. The first applied coating has some BPA in it. The second protective sealant over the metal does not contain any, and isolates the first coating from contact with the jar's contents.
Potential for migration of BPA is reduced by the following:
An additional protective overcoat facing the food, isolating the epoxy BPA containing
coating. The coating containing the BPA cannot be in contact with the food.
The cap's inner surface is separated from the food by an area of air/vacuum.
The surface area exposed to the food is substantially less for a twist cap than canned
Today's most stringent regulations for food safety is in the European Union, where these twist caps have been tested as safe in regards to BPA for use on food products. Currently, we are told, there is no known viable alternative to BPA based epoxy coatings that provides the same level of corrosion resistance and is as safe. We continually push our cap suppliers to develop BPA free constructed caps that will deliver required corrosion resistance, shelf life, and safety.
Eden is certain that today's chemists could solve the BPA problem, especially if consumers demand it, and Eden Foods encourages everyone to be knowledgeable, questioning, and actively involved food buyers, as we are.