Thursday, February 9, 2012

Update on BPA in Cans of Muir Glen Organic Tomato Products

I called Muir Glen yesterday to get an update on the status of Bisphenol A (BPA) in the linings of the company's aluminum tomato cans. I had last called a year ago, when Muir Glen was just starting to transition to BPA-free cans.

(As I've written previously, BPA is an endocrine-disrupting chemical used in many plastics and aluminum cans, and according to Rodale News, is “linked to male infertility, diabetes, heart disease, aggressive behavior in children, and other ills.”)


The good news, according to the company, is that since October 2011 only BPA-free aluminum cans have been used for its tomato products (which are organic). The bad news is that cans of BPA are still present on store shelves, thanks to the products' 2 ½-year shelf life.


Baffling and unfortunate for a company owned by General Mills is that there is no definitive way to distinguish between cans until you open a can and see the color of the can's inside lining. A white inside means you have a can with a BPA lining; a bright golden, orangey inside indicates a BPA-free can. (It's sort of like hitting the jackpot, but different.)


I asked if I could get a refund if I got stuck with a BPA can. (I actually use Bionaturae organic strained tomatoes in BPA-free glass jars, but that was immaterial to my line of questioning.)


"No, because we consider BPA to be a safe product," said the customer service representative I spoke with.


"If BPA is safe, then why are you switching away from using it?" I asked.


"Because that's what our customers want."


(Whatever; I'm sure I'm not the only one who would trade disingenuous answers for a higher sperm count.)


Since Muir Glen has no plans yet for labeling (unlike Eden Foods, which marks its BPA-free cans of beans accordingly), follow these guidelines:


Look for an expiration date with the year 2014; there's a very, very good chance you'll get a golden, BPA-free surprise. Expiration dates of 2013 could go either way, while 2012 and 2011 should be avoided. When Muir Glen starts packaging tomatoes anew at the end of this summer, the cans will have expiration dates of 2015 and will be BPA-free.


Until then, good luck.

17 comments:

Oni said...

Guess they're hoping people will think all are BPA-free, didn't want to lose any profits on the old cans.

Chef Rob said...

Oni,

I agree, I think it's money-related. Not sure how many people would buy a can without a "BPA FREE" label that was sitting next to a can with one.

It's the same reason why BIG FOOD and BIG CHEMICAL so vehemently oppose the labeling of foods that contain GMOs (aka genetically engineered [GE] ingredients).

By the way, the Just Label It! campaign (www.justlabelit.org) is now over 600,000 people who have told the FDA they want foods containing GMOs to be labeled as such.

Spread the word!!!

Karen said...

Do you know what Muir Glen uses to line its BPA-free cans? I'm concerned that what they are using now may be just as unsafe as BPA.

Eden Foods appears to be forthcoming about what they use in their BPA-free cans.

http://www.edenfoods.com/articles/view.php?articles_id=178

Thanks!

Chef Rob said...

Karen,

I just got off the phone with General Mills (owner of Small Planet Foods, which makes Muir Glen). I'll answer your question (plus give other info) in tomorrow's post.

Rob

Anonymous said...

Its ridiculous how the FDA allows pesticides, homones.BPA & other chemicals into our foods.I was very suprised to know that even Orgaanic canned foods (like beans & wild salmon) are in BPA lined cans. WOW. Thats not good. How a company would place a clean food into a chemically lined can. Its beyond reason. What can you eat these days? I read the plastic used to wrap meats/chicken (even Organic) contains chemicals. WOW.

Jackie G said...

Thank you so much for this information. I am going to contact Muir Glen(General Mills as well and let them know consumers should be able to see BPA free on the label. Maybe the more they hear fromn consumers the more chance for a change.

Dayton said...

I LOL'ed at the part where they said they're switching to BPA-free cans because that's what their customers want, but they're not labelling the cans BPA-free because... (awkward mumbling). Hmm!

Muir Glen's parent company, General Mills, has a whole web page about their opposition to California Prop. 37. They claim they're against it because they'd have to label product differently in different states. Meanwhile soft-drink bottlers manage to comply with labeling provisions of container-deposit laws in all the states they distribute, all with one national label design, so that argument doesn't hold water. I'm not to the point of boycotting General Mills (not that I buy much of their packaged foods to start with) or Muir Glen just yet, but I'll be keeping an eye out for alternatives for sure.

Buffy Kinstle said...

Bionaturae's canned tomatoes have also recently switched to using a can lining that is BPA-Free. The side of the packaging says "the lining of this can was produced without BPA." FYI, no canned tomato company can legally say they have a 100% BPA free cans- the reason being that all of the cans are produced in factories where 95% of their business is BPA cans, so there is a small risk of cross contamination from the machinery. Until there becomes a 100% BPA free canning factory, this will always be an issue. How do we get that? consumer awareness and demand need to grow...vote with your dollars, tell the companies what you want, support new BPA-Free laws.

Chef Rob said...

Dayton, Buffy - Thanks for the information. I'll check out the General Mills web site now and look for the Bionaturae cans the next time I go to the store.

Anonymous said...

I just opened a Kirkland brand organic diced tomato can and it has a bright orangey colored lining. Do you think that means it is safe?

Chef Rob said...

The only way to be sure is to call Costco and ask them the status of the cans.

loonybird said...

I recently purchased Kirkland organic diced tomato cans and this blog post had me concerned. I called the customer care and they said the cans are BPA free.

Chef Rob said...

loonybird,

Glad to hear that. Be aware, though, that testing on replacement materials hasn't happened, so we're really not sure what we are getting.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, you are performing a very valuable and helpful service, and I am grateful for the work you have done on this.

Anonymous said...

Hello,
Was there ever a follow-up post on the information acquired from Miur Glen about what materials and liners they're using for bpa-free cans? I haven't been able to find any information on the internet about what this material is, what it's called, and the safety of it.
Any info would be greatly appreciated!

Anonymous said...

It's too bad that the parent company, General Mills, has contributed thousands of dollars in attack ads to defeat GMO labeling (recently in Washington State to defeat Prop 522.) Genetically modified food is something everyone should have the right to know about if they're about to consume it. Currently there is no way of knowing whether it's safe a few years down the line, but it seems that it is not. We are the ones being experimented upon.

Suparna Exports Pvt. Ltd. said...

Hi, nice post got good information about Aluminium cans
These cans are eco friendly and keeps the food products fresh.