Food & Drink » Glenda Bartosh on Food

My "Big Four" food let-downs

Just when you thought our food supply might be getting better...



I've been tracking issues in our food supply system for years. Sometimes I feel optimistic, like when Canada became the first country to declare bisphenol A (BPA) a toxic substance and banned it in plastic water bottles and baby food containers.

And sometimes I don't, like when they didn't ban BPA in the lining of cans used for food with the same stroke of the pen.

It seems to me these issues track like climate change. They make headlines, people say, oh gosh, that's awful. Then, when it comes to the hard lifting, such as effecting policy or other real change, we burrow back into our little lives and the latest celebrity meltdown.

In lieu of something somewhere having eternal mercy on our souls, which only further encourages procrastination and avoidance of meaningful action, I give you these, my Big Four let-downs regarding our food supply, starting with the BPA dropoff.

1. BPA is still kicking around

According to Toxic Free Canada (formerly the Labour Environmental Alliance Society, which brought us the eternally useful CancerSmart Consumer Guide), bisphenol A mimics the female hormone estrogen, and causes defective cell division during development even at extremely low doses.

A growing number of studies have also linked BPA to other kinds of reproductive and developmental damage, as well as breast and prostate cancer, and to the possibility it may play a role developing Alzheimer's disease and even diabetes because of its effect in causing insulin resistance.

The Canadian Cancer Society points out that BPA is still used in making certain plastics and the resin that lines food cans. Some sources, mostly in the U.S., also say it's used to line soda pop cans.

The U.S.-based Work Group for Safe Markets' released a report, called No Silver Lining, An Investigation into Bisphenol A in Canned Foods, which summarizes results from testing canned foods from the States and Ontario for BPA.

It was found in 92 per cent of the samples. The highest level of BPA — 1,140 parts per billion, which, to the group's knowledge was the highest level ever found in the U.S. — was detected in Del Monte French Style Green Beans. Other high scorers included Wal-Mart's Great Value Green Peas and Healthy Choice Old Fashioned Chicken Noodle Soup.

BPA has also been restricted in many European and Middle Eastern countries.

Given the above, why on Earth, when our federal government banned BPA in certain products in 2010, did it not include a ban for all food and drink applications?


Yes, all of us should eat fresh or frozen. But let's face it, most of us still use canned goods to some degree. Until manufacturers move to wonderful, inert, but heavy-to-ship glass, thank goodness one supplier is proudly BPA-free.