7 On Your Side investigates BPAs in canned food

Most of us know Bisphenol A from the fight over its use in baby bottles and water containers, but there is much more at stake. BPA is found in about 90 percent of all Americans and what could be a main source may surprise you.

Young mothers and mothers-to-be have become a staple of TV news reports about BPAs.

"It shouldn't be my job to determine what's safe and what's not. I shouldn't have to be a chemist or toxicologist to go to the grocery store to know what I'm buying is safe," says expectant mother Gretchen Lee Salters.

Most reports focus on plastics containing the chemical, but often overlooked, even by researchers, are BPAs found in the lining of cans. The chemical is used as part of a coating to keep food fresh and from interacting with the metal. The Food and Drug Administration has expressed concern, but issued no rules.

The San Francisco-based Breast Cancer Fund wants that to change, saying BPAs are dangerous.

"When we take it in, the body reads it either as something that's pushing the same buttons that our own hormones do, or it's disrupting how those hormones work," says Connie Engel, Ph.D., from the Breast Cancer Fund.

Some studies have indeed linked BPAs to health concerns including cancer and obesity, but other studies show no linkage. The chemical industry says concerns are overblown.

"The collective data from international scientific bodies has concluded BPA is safe as used. Again, this is a political decision, not something that's being made by scientific fact," says Tim Shestek from the American Chemistry Council.

Feinstein has been pushing a compromise that would have studied the chemical's impact, while banning BPAs in some baby products.

"Particularly, move aggressively right now in baby cups, baby bottles, sippy cups, infant formula, infant food, and then in conjunction with the FDA study, phase out BPA on canned goods," says Feinstein.

The Feinstein compromise was voted down just this week and now California's senior senator is urging consumers to back away from products containing BPAs.

But is that really possible? Just how common are BPAs? Could it be found in cans taken randomly off a store's shelf?

Working with our San Diego affiliate, KGTV, 7 On Your Side commissioned our own lab reports. Before the results are revealed, you should know that some studies suggest there should be concerns with levels as little as 9 ppb of BPA.

In our test Bush's black beans had 10.5 ppb of BPA. Chef Boyardee beef ravioli had 261 ppb.

ConAgra Foods owns Chef Boyardee and wrote 7 On Your Side, "While the levels of BPA found... are considerably higher than other results found for this product line... your findings still do not pose any health risk..."

Nonetheless, the company is converting to non-BPA lined cans and says, "We are confident it is safe. We are changing because of consumer interest in BPA."

Bush Brothers & Company told 7 On Your Side, "We are, and will continue to be, in full compliance with the FDA."

One study found more than 90 percent of the canned food tested, tested positive for BPAs.

Canada formally declared BPAs a toxic substance, while most of Europe has not.

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