2012-2013 Bisphenol A in Canned Foods

Executive Summary

The Food Safety Action Plan (FSAP) aims to modernize and enhance Canada's food safety system. As a part of the FSAP enhanced surveillance initiative, targeted surveys are used to provide data in order to evaluate various foods for specific hazards.

The main objectives of this targeted survey were:

  • to provide baseline data on the presence and levels of bisphenol-A (BPA) in canned vegetables/legumes, fruits, juices/beverages, pastas, soups, coconut milk, and curry sauces/products available on the Canadian retail market; and
  • to compare the prevalence and the levels of BPA found in this survey with other Canadian and US Food and Drug Administration data, where feasible.

Bisphenol A is a chemical used in the production of polycarbonate and epoxy resins. Food and beverage packaging, particularly metal cans, may be internally coated with epoxy resins to protect food from direct contact with metal. BPA can migrate from the epoxy coatings into food, particularly at elevated temperatures (e.g., in hot-filled or heat-processed canned foods). Elevated BPA concentrations have been associated with food products contained in syrups, sauces (i.e., tomato sauce), and brine.

Health Canada's Food Directorate has concluded in their most recent risk assessment of bisphenol A that the current dietary exposure to BPA through food packaging uses is not expected to pose a health risk to the general population, including newborns and infants. This conclusion has been re-affirmed by other international food regulatory agencies, including those of Canada's major trading partners. As a result, the use of BPA in food packaging materials has not been prohibited in Canada. Health Canada has recommended that the general principle of ALARA (as low as reasonably achievable) be applied to continue efforts on limiting BPA exposure from food packaging applications, specifically from pre-packaged infant formula products as a sole source food consumed by infants and newborns.

A total of 576 samples of canned products were collected and analyzed in the 2012-2013 BPA targeted survey as these products are likely to have epoxy coatings. Samples included 217 pastas/soups, 144 vegetables/legumes, 73 fruit products, 72 juices/beverages, 46 coconut milks, and 24 curry products. BPA was not detected in 74.8% of the survey samples, but was detected in all product categories sampled in this survey. In the 145 positive samples, the observed BPA levels ranged from 0.0052 parts-per-million (ppm) (found in a canned pasta sample) to 0.381 ppm (detected in a coconut milk sample).

The current FSAP survey, the previous FSAP surveys and the CFIA's National Chemical Residue Monitoring Program had comparable detection rates for BPA. The overall results of the current targeted survey were comparable to those in Health Canada and US Food and Drug Administration publications for similar products.

No Canadian regulations or maximum levels (tolerances or standards) have been established for BPA in food, therefore compliance to a numerical standard could not be assessed. Health Canada's Bureau of Chemical Safety determined that none of the samples analyzed for BPA in this survey posed a concern to human health and therefore no follow-up actions were needed.

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