does it make sense to avoid canned tomatoes?
February 1, 2011 2:03 PM   Subscribe

Am I being silly about BPA and tomato products? I have small children and am under the impression that I would do better to eliminate as much BPA as possible from our household diet. Am I doing any good by avoiding canned tomato products?

I used to cook a lot with canned tomatoes, but I've mostly stopped, although I do still use an Italian brand that comes in glass jars (but now I hear BPA is in the lids?).

I wonder whether there's a consensus among careful but educated (i.e. not tinfoilhat) consumers as to whether the amount of BPA ingested in canned tomato products is going to make any difference over the lifetime of a child. We do occasionally eat processed foods with tomato sauce (lasagnas, etc) - does this negate whatever good I might be doing with the foods I cook myself? Also, I'm finding conflicting info on whether Trader Joe's tomato cans have BPA... I'm guessing that they do, since they'd surely advertise if they didn't. Does anyone know?
posted by fingersandtoes to Health & Fitness (10 answers total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
Canned tomatoes with the BPA lining have a different taste than those without it, you aren't imagining anything. POMI and Muir Glen are the brands that I use that don't have that BPA taste from the acidity of the tomatoes eating the lining. If you want to know if trader's joe's uses the same technology as Muir Glen (enameled) it's easy to compare by sight.
posted by Brent Parker at 2:11 PM on February 1, 2011

As to the BPA.

This link has a series of articles regarding BPA. Based on emerging science I, frankly, would minimize as much contact with it as reasonably possible. Are you going to totally avoid it? Absolutely not. But no need to willingly introduce it as well. BPA is currently at a point I think manufactures have to independently demonstrate it's safety under different circumstances.

(one of the above articles talks about how the FDA is unable to effectively regulate it, even if they wanted to.)
posted by edgeways at 2:46 PM on February 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

According to this article, both Muir Glen and Trader Joes use BPA in their tomato cans:
Muir Glen: Not Safe
Company says they DO use BPA.

Trader Joe's: UPDATE!!!

Canned items in our stores WITH BPA lining in the cans would include: tomatoes, tomato sauce & paste, soups, chili, and stew.

Canned items in our stores that DO NOT have BPA lining in the cans include:
seafood (tuna, salmon, herring, sardines, etc.), chicken, turkey & beef and now beans and corn. All of our products and packaging are within food safety guidelines and regulations. However, we also wanted to inform you that we do not have any plastic packaging with BPA.
posted by Kimberly at 2:49 PM on February 1, 2011

Well...nearly all readily-available dome lids for mason jars are lined with plastic that contains BPAs, too. Don't get me wrong - we did fifty quarts last summer - but there's a risk there as well. All metal/rubber/glass seals don't, of course, and there are some reusable all-plastic lids that don't contain BPAs. Correctly packed tomatoes shouldn't touch the lid after cooling, but they certainly will as they expand during processing.

In the same vein, jarred tomatoes will usually be capped with lids lined with BPA-containing plastic.

Your options are Pomi and other tetra-pak'ed tomatoes, I think Muir Glen (though those taste obviously metallic to me without a lining) and one of the glass jar brands - Bionature, maybe? - that advertises its lids as resin-lined rather than plastic lined.

It's up to you to decide the risk vs. the cost; the reliability of studies conducted so far is sort of infuriating. Because your kids are young, you might well be more concerned.

An alternative - make simple tomato puree or sauce in late summer and freeze it in glass containers. BPA free all the way.
posted by peachfuzz at 2:57 PM on February 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

Just buying a bunch of roma tomatoes and cooking them down doesn't take very long at all; you can whip up a sauce for some ravioli pretty quickly.

Then, there's always making your own sauce and freezing it instead of canning it -- that way you don't have to worry about the lids.

Aren't tetra paks lined with some kind of plastic? I've wondered about that.
posted by amtho at 3:47 PM on February 1, 2011

All canned tomato products --- including Muir Glenn --- contain BPA. The advantage of BPA lining is that it prevents the tinny canned taste. It doesn't cause it. BPA can cause biological effects at a small number of parts per billion. You can't taste this.

From everything I've read, Tetra Packs do not contain BPA.

Regarding the metal lids that are used in glass jars, they are indeed lined with BPA as peachfuzz says. There's a very good discussion of this in an article about the new line of packaged-in-glass tomato products from Eden Foods. Kudos to Eden for doing the right thing with their foods, being honest, and treating the public as intelligent adults.

We've stopped using tomato products in cans. We'd use Eden if they were available near us. Right now we're using the POMI in the tetra packs.

No, you are not being silly to do your best to avoid BPA.
posted by alms at 4:54 PM on February 1, 2011 [6 favorites]

This fall's harvest of Muir Glen tomatoes do not have BPA in them. The new cans are just now coming into stores. Before that Muir Glen

We purchased a couple cases of glass-jar canned tomatoes recently- they were on clearance- otherwise they would have been horribly expensive.

Eden organics now packages their tomatoes in brown glass jars, with lids that do have some BPA in them, but it is under another layer.

As for is it worth worrying about? Well, I spend a lot of time with biologists, many of whom have babies. They stay away from BPA. Endocrine disruptors are not fun, especially for growing bodies. Fortunately, BPA is cleared relatively quickly from the body, but it is still worth avoiding if possible.
posted by rockindata at 4:58 PM on February 1, 2011 [4 favorites]

rockindata, thanks for the update about Muir Glen! That's great news.
posted by alms at 5:41 PM on February 1, 2011

Yeah, the toxicologists I know go for jarred tomatoes to reduce their exposure to BPA (but don't worry about the small amount in lids). I still sometimes buy tomato paste in lined cans, and I don't worry about the occasional meal out. As a risk assessor, I firmly believe that it's never worth killing myself to avoid risk - it's everywhere - but it's also worth avoiding the risks that are relatively easy to do without.
posted by ldthomps at 5:50 PM on February 1, 2011

I've seen signs at Trader Joe's saying that their canned tomato products will no longer be packed in cans that use BPA at some point in the future (maybe late 2011?)
posted by needs more cowbell at 1:22 PM on February 2, 2011

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