• Posted by Califia Suntree on December 15th, 2014, 10:48 AM

    As readers of this blog (or my recent cookbook, Bring Your Lunch!) are probably aware, I’m rather down on plastic. Even before all the hoopla about BPA—a chemical found in most plastics that acts as an “endocrine disrupter,” especially in developing bodies—I was anti-plastic because (to quote myself in 2010): “It’s in the ocean and turtles eat it. It never fully disintegrates. It’s made out of petroleum.” Well, the BPA angle is looking more significant by the day, and that whole turtle/ocean thing is more of a problem than ever.

    BPA gets into our systems—the CDC found it in the urine of 93% of a survey group, which they consider “representative” of the entire U.S.— in all kinds of ways (including cash register receipts). But per the NIH, the main way it gets into the body is “through the diet,” including food containers, beverage bottles, and, most especially, the “protective internal epoxy resin coatings of canned foods.” Yes, canned foods are the main culprit. Since hearing this, I have cut way down on my canned food consumption—I buy shelf-stable items in jars and make my own soups and beans to freeze. However, I haven’t been able to eliminate them entirely—I’m devoted to light coconut milk (I use it in everything) and occasionally need some pumpkin puree or roasted chilies or a quick can of chili in a pinch. I get all these items from Trader Joe’s, so I decided to just ask: Are all TJ’s canned goods lined with BPA? Here’s the surprisingly detailed answer I got, from Nikki in Customer Relations. 

    “First, … all Tetra Pak is BPA-free.

    Second, every glass jar item has a metal lid. All metal lids do have a layer of BPA coating. However, there is another coating put on after that. There is no direct contact of BPA to food. We have multiple supplier testing results showing there is no BPA detected from metal lids.

    All our canned fish (and our canned chicken and beef too) are now in BPA-free cans EXCEPT: Sardines, Crab, Cherrystone Clams & Oysters.

    All our canned fruits, beans and vegetables (including tomatoes, and the Organic Canned Pumpkin) are in BPA-free cans EXCEPT: Mandarins, Hatch Chilies, and Artichokes.

    All of our canned Soups and Stews (and including Joe‘s Os) are in cans that DO have BPA, except our organic black bean soup, organic lentil soup, organic split pea soup and our organic vegetarian chili . Some of our suppliers are expecting they will be able to make transition next year.

    Lastly, Coconut Milk and Coconut Cream is in a BPA-free can.”


    So that’s  good news on the coconut milk front, not so good on the Hatch chilies and artichoke hearts. Tetra-Paks are BPA-free, however they are lined in PET (a plastic polymer).

    I wrote  to “Nikki” to ask what the non-BPA cans are lined with (or if they are unlined, as in the olden days), but after repeated contact, have gotten no reply. [Update: I heard back! See below.] Unfortunately, while BPA is definitely in the crosshairs, other plastics appear to pose health risks as well—just because a plastic lining or item is non-BPA, you should still look at it askance. Though that EHP study optimistically declares that “plastic products…extracted by saline and ethanol solvents could be cost-effectively made on a commercial scale and thereby eliminate a potential health risk,” still, we simply must find a way to, if not break, then at least better manage our plastic habit.

    There are so many ways to cut down on plastic without sacrifice, and if the fact that around a quarter of the entire earth’s surface is covered with floating plastic “gyres” doesn’t inspire you to want to try, perhaps the growing body of research on the possibly dramatic harm BPA and EAs is causing us will.


    Update: I did finally hear from Trader Joe’s customer relations about what the BPA-free cans are lined with. Basically, they have no idea. From “Rachel”:

    Unfortunately, we do not have an across-the-board answer for this question. Some of our BPA-free cans will be unlined, and some will be lined with various proprietary, alternative linings—typically vegetable based. We do not have record of every lining, as each vendor of ours will be sourcing packaging differently—what they can confirm for us is whether or not BPA is present, but at this point, we do not have further information in the linings used.

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  1. December 12th, 2016 at 9:49 pm

    This was great. Thank you!!

    I just made some chili tonight using canned ingredients and it suddenly dawned on me that I should see how safe cans are. Looks like I will need to learn to cook dried beans…

  2. May 1st, 2017 at 7:24 am

    Thanks for the post. I recently emailed Trader Joe’s about the same issue, and received a similar response. They list of alleged BPA-free items are on their website now. I also asked why the cans of food that they allege are BPA-free are not marked as such. Nikki said simply that TJ’s “not market any of our canned good products as BPA free when applied.” Seems odd that they do not, since many consumers would like to see this fact on a can.

    I also asked what lines the cans, if not BPA-containing plastic. Nikki did not know. It seems the suppliers essentially do what they want regarding that. TJ’s makes suggestions and/or forwards them customer emails apparently, but TJ’s apparently has no say. At least that’s the impression Nikki gave me when, in response to my queries, she simply said she would forward the queries to the suppliers.

    Eden Foods is the only canned good producer that I trust. According to their website, they use a plant-based resin to line their cans. Other cans my not contain BPA, but they probably contain a derivative of BPA (e.g., BPS, BPF) that may be just as bad or worse. https://nutritionfacts.org/video/are-the-bpa-free-alternatives-safe/

  3. August 26th, 2018 at 9:35 am
    Califia Suntree

    Good to know about Eden brands! I simply use as little canned food as possible. At this point, the only canned foods I use are tuna and tomatoes, so I’m glad to know about Eden. Thank you!

  4. November 19th, 2017 at 7:31 pm

    As a woman at WAR (woman at risk) for Breast Cancer (dense breasts, other risks as well) I wrote TJs tonight on this subject, asking ?s, before finding this great informative article. Thank you my dear for your due diligence. My husband says TJs is a “religion”, and since we deal in reality, I’ve decided to not buy any broths again from TJs. I am not a follower of the religion of TJs, and now I am very concerned about what I’ve exposed my breasts, and uterus to. TJs is brilliant marketing, lots of exotic frankenfood, and they perfected “the paradox of choice”. So, are the broths Tetra Pak packaged with the plastic polymer? If so, yikes.
    I love your stance on plastic and our precious planet. Yeah, our seas are full of cr*p. So sad. Thanks for being you. Happy Thanksgiving.
    So Ca

  5. February 26th, 2018 at 4:54 pm

    Thanks for this article. I have been using coconut milk from TJs for the last uwar or so. Today, after i emptied one of the cana i noticed a brownish resin like substance peeling away feom the inside of the can. Ewwww. U derneath was the slippery white can insides that i typically find when i empty the contents. It definately was not edible and looked like glue. No more canned coconut foe me.

  6. August 26th, 2018 at 9:33 am
    Califia Suntree

    Hi Beth! Obviously I have been away from Spooning for a while, but in the meanwhile TJs coconut milk has gone way downhill. I now use a Tetrapack full-fat coconut milk (just a splash!) for my coffee and to make things like ice cream. I buy Aroy-D 100% coconut milk by the case on Amazon. It’s way too delicious!

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