Skip to main content
Skip Navigation

Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future (CLF) research finds evidence for link between canned food and exposure to hormone-disrupting chemical Bisphenol A

Large, national study lists canned soup, pasta, vegetables, and fruit as food with the strongest link to BPA concentrations and pushes for solutions to this issue.

Jul 07, 2016


A new study published in Environmental Research by investigators at the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future and the Stanford Prevention Center shows eating canned food increases exposure to Bisphenol A (BPA), a chemical linked to diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and hyperactivity in children. The research, a first-of-its-kind national sample of more than 6,000 people, also highlights specific canned foods linked to higher levels of the chemical.

BPA is a compound used to make resins that coat the inside of food cans and jar lids. But not all cans are made equally. Researchers have found that different foods have different amounts of BPA contamination. “I could eat three cans of peaches, and you could eat one can of cream of mushroom soup and have a greater exposure to BPA,” said lead author Jennifer Hartle, a 2013 Center for a Livable Future-Lerner Fellow and now postdoctoral researcher at Stanford University.

The research team found that canned food was associated with higher urinary BPA concentrations, and the more canned food consumed, the higher the amount of BPA. This was true in both children and adults, with the association even larger in children.

However, as noted by co-author and CLF founder Dr. Robert Lawrence, this doesn't mean consumers should worry. “We've been working hard to get consumers to eat the right foods – fruits and vegetables and quality protein from plants, nuts, and lean cuts of meat – and for some, these come in the form of canned foods. While there is a link to increased urinary BPA measurements, they are below the U.S. Food and Drug Administration exposure guidelines, and we wouldn't want anyone to stop eating these foods because of our findings,” explains Dr. Lawrence.

A previous study Lawrence and Hartle collaborated on found that children, who are especially susceptible to hormone disruption from BPA, are at risk from school meals that now often come from cans and other packaging in an effort to streamline food preparation and meet federal nutrition standards while keeping costs low.

Dr. Lawrence goes on to say, “I am a strong advocate for getting more fresh fruits and vegetables on dinner plates and in school lunches. The real question is how we move away from packaged foods. And if we have to use them, what safer alternatives are there to BPA and its sister chemicals?”

 “The Consumption of Canned Food and Beverages and Urinary Bisphenol A Concentrations in NHANES 2003-2008” was authored by Jennifer Hartle, Robert S. Lawrence and Ana Navas-Acien.