• 11.14.11

The BPA Lurking In Your Thanksgiving Dinner

Canned foods continue to test positive for the dangerous compound. Here’s some tips on making your Thanksgiving as BPA free as possible.

The BPA Lurking In Your Thanksgiving Dinner
A delicious holiday meal, now with highly damaging BPA!

BPA is hard to avoid, mostly because it’s in almost everything–soup cans, water bottles, plastic-packaged foods, even store receipts. But here’s one thing that’s easy to remember: Steer clear of certain canned foods in your Thanksgiving dishes unless you want to dose your entire family with high levels of the potentially toxic compound.


The Breast Cancer Fund released a report this week showing the results of BPA tests for popular canned Thanksgiving foods, including Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom Soup, Campbell’s Turkey Gravy, Carnation Evaporated Milk, Del Monte Fresh Cut Sweet Corn, Green Giant Cut Green Beans, Libby’s Pumpkin, and Ocean Spray Jellied Cranberry Sauce. Twenty-eight items–four of each product–were sent to an independent testing lab.

Twelve cans tested contained enough BPA to expose a woman of average weight (144 lbs.) to at least 11 parts per billion of the stuff per each 120 g serving of food–the threshold that lab studies have linked with problems for in-utero brain development. Other adverse health effects from high BPA exposure can include an increased risk of breast cancer, puberty onset, and body weight.

But here’s the kicker: cans of the same product varied wildly in BPA levels. Levels of the compound in Del Monte creamed corn, for example, varied from non-detectable to 221 ppb. Campbell’s Turkey Gravy ranged from 5 ppb to 125 ppb. Inconsistencies had nothing to do with expiration date, and only one tested product (Ocean Spray Jellied Cranberry Sauce) was found to be BPA-free. The Breast Cancer Fund speculates that the varied BPA levels could be related to canning facilities, transportation, and storage, but there’s really no way to know.

What’s a Thanksgiving cook who doesn’t have time to make everything from scratch to do? Buy pumpkin puree, green beans, gravy in a Tetra Pak. Make your own creamed corn with frozen corn, cream, salt, pepper, and butter. If you’re still at a loss, the Breast Cancer Fund has some handy BPA-free Thanksgiving recipes.

Outside of the Thanksgiving season, you can avoid BPA by steering clear of ultra-salty and fatty canned foods (meals, soups, vegetables). These have been shown to have the highest levels of the compound. For even more tips, check out our list of six steps to avoiding BPA in your daily life.

About the author

Ariel Schwartz is a Senior Editor at Co.Exist. She has contributed to SF Weekly, Popular Science, Inhabitat, Greenbiz, NBC Bay Area, GOOD Magazine and more.