Study says higher risk of BPA in canned goods from Asian food stores

OAKLAND, Calif. (KGO) -- A new study from a local environmental group has concluded people who used canned good from some Asian food stores to cook at home are at a much higher risk of exposure to the controversial chemical BPA.

BPA has been labeled by the state of California as a substance which can cause reproductive harm.

7 On Your Side's Michael Finney has the latest on this study released recently.

Researchers from Oakland-based Center for Environmental Health purchased nearly 80 products from about a dozen stores in the Bay Area, Sacramento and Southern California. They are concerned about their findings.

MORE: FAQ from Food & Drug Administration on safety of BPA

Research associate Tenzin Norbu cuts off portions of the lining of a canned food container purchased from an Asian food store. He'll take that along with the can's lid and test for the presence of BPA.

The group says out of 78 cans purchased, 91 percent tested positive for BPA.

As someone from the Tibetan region of China, the results hit close to home for Norbu. "The cans that I tested are mostly bought from the Asian grocery store," he said.

The results also gave lead researcher Carolyn Cox pause. "Even for people like me who don't have an Asian heritage, we really enjoy Asian cooking and using some of these ingredients," she said.

Canned foods tested were manufactured in China, Korea, Japan, Thailand, Vietnam, India, Pakistan and even the United Arab Emirates, Australia and Canada.

The FDA in 2014 determined that BPA remains safe in materials that come in contact with food. But the following year, California added BPA to its Proposition 65 list of hazardous chemicals known to pose a risk to child birth.

MORE: Center for Environmental Health report on BPA & canned foods

Just last month, a study by the Center for Environmental Health found nearly 40 percent of food cans tested at mainstream stores tested positive for BPA. Compare that to 91 percent of cans tested in this study from Asian grocery stores.

MORE: Center for Disease Control fact sheet on BPA

"Perhaps that consumer pressure has been less outside of the U.S., so many more cans are still using BPA," Coz said.

But two industry groups we contacted don't give much credibility to the center's study.

The Grocery Manufacturer's Association said, "Scientists and regulatory agencies in the U.S. and across the world have concluded that BPA is safe for use in food packaging."

The North American Metal Packing Alliance said, "Can coatings made with BPA are approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration."

Despite that, the group says the industry is moving away from BPA in canned foods but warns the transition will be slow.

Tracey Woodruff who studies chemicals and reproduction at UCSF finds reason for optimism.

A similar study in 2015 of cans tested from mainstream grocery stores found 67 percent tested positive for BPA compared to 40 percent his year. Asian imports were not tested back then.

"It's really kind of amazing that the levels went down," Woodruff said.

She suggests those concerned should eat fresh fruits and vegetables or frozen food products. You can also get your food cans tested at the Center for Environmental Health for a suggested donation of $25.

Click here for the Center for Environmental Health's full report.

Click here for frequently asked questions from the FDA on the safety of BPA.
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