At last! BPA-free canned tomatoes!
[UPDATE: see end of post for March 2012 update to this post]
Tomatoes have been one of the most notoriously difficult canned veggies to find commercially in a BPA-free package.
But check this out:
Apparently, as of right about now, the answer is YES. (Or actually, probably.) They had previously announced that they would start with the BPA-free linings ”at the next harvest,” which was this past fall, so just about now the new cans are being rolled out, which is to say the ones on your grocery store shelf have a good chance of being the new ones. This delights me, because though there are two other brands I’m aware of who are also using BPA-free packaging for their canned tomatoes, Muir Glen is one of the few I can actually purchase easily at the places I shop most often.
Eden Foods has begun packaging its tomatoes in glass jars, which is another handy way to avoid the BPA issue (though there is still the question of the lids, which is also addressed–very well, I might add–by Eden as quoted in the article linked above)–honestly, considering everyone’s been selling pasta sauce in glass jars forever, I don’t see why preserved tomato products can’t be sold in similar jars by pretty much everyone. Pomi tomatoes come in a BPA-free tetra-pak package, grown in Italy, and are another really good bet–but I have a harder time finding Pomi and Eden in my daily travels. If I ever did, I’d snatch them up and give them a shot, though…
By the way–when shopping for canned tomatoes, be aware that Europe has different standards for pesticides and GMO crops and such (as in, most of the European Union actually has standards, as opposed to the USA where Monsanto rules and the agricorps can pretty much do whatever they want)…and that buying tomatoes actually grown and canned in Italy will guarantee a tomato grown a certain way. But–in the first place, consider the carbon footprint of getting that tomato to you. In the second, you have to really read the can to know what you’re getting, because a lot of USA-grown-and-processed tomatoes have very Italian-sounding names, with “processed in California” only in very small letters somewhere…
Next fall, if you want to save the dilemma all together–grow your own, or buy what I call an “ugly bushel” from the farmers’ market (you know, the kind of lumpy unattractive tomatoes) and can them yourself. It makes for a full morning’s really sweaty work, but it also makes for some really nice winter eating. In September when I was doing it, I kept asking myself, “groooaaaan, is this really worth it?” Now in January, I can say without hesitation, Yes.
UPDATE as of March 2012:
I find it interesting that, despite all the fabulously interesting posts I’ve created in the past few years ( ), this is the one that gets by far the most hits. Goes to show how many people are really interested in this topic. And the punch line, when all is said and done, reflects what I’ve been saying for years, that what will effect change in the end is consumer noise and voting with the wallet, not the desire of businesses to be altruistic and just plain Do The Right Thing.
After a commenter below asked for clarification, I sent a note to Muir Glen inquiring as to the exact status of their canned tomatoes as of right now, March 2012. This is the email I got in response; very quickly, too. Irene of Customer Service writes:
Thank you for contacting Muir Glen about bisphenol-A or BPA.
As of October 2011, Muir Glen canned tomato products do not utilize BPA in product packaging.
Muir Glen continues to believe BPA is safe based on the weight of evidence of scientific and governmental bodies worldwide, including comprehensive risk assessments in Japan and the European Union along with the European Food Safety Authority’s reaffirmation in December 2011 of its opinion that there is no new evidence to suggest the tolerable daily intake of BPA needs to be lowered. The FDA has also endorsed the safety of current exposure levels.
However, we know that some of our consumers have chosen to avoid BPA, so we had been looking for alternatives. Working with our can suppliers and can manufacturers, Muir Glen was able to develop and test a safe and viable alternative that does not use BPA for our canned tomato products. We began transitioning to those linings with the fall 2010 tomato pack – and we completed that transition with the 2011 tomato pack.
The new liners are a vinyl based liner. The safety of this can lining has been thoroughly tested. In addition to complying with requirements set forth by the FDA, Small Planet Foods board certified toxicologist has concurred with this assessment.
Your views are important to us. Again, thank you for contacting Muir Glen, and thank you for your support of our products.
So…clearly a form-type letter, but very to the point and answering the question directly without a lot of twisty-speak, which I appreciate. But they say right there in the letter–”we don’t think there’s any problem with BPA, and we believe the evidence says it’s safe, but y’all are making a lot of noise and more and more people are deliberately looking for cans without BPA linings, so we are glad to oblige, because we want to keep our customer base.” And for all I know they may be right–BPA in the kinds of quantities we get it from cans may be perfectly safe, and the problems currently attributed to it might be as much due to the unfortunate pesticides and GMO products currently canned in a lot of those BPA lined cans (not organic ones, natch) as to BPA itself, though that clearly has potential to be problematic as well in quantity. I am not a scientist. But I choose to avoid the “it’s probably safe but we’re not sure yet” stuff until we are indeed sure. Innocent until proven guilty is fine for a criminal justice system, not for a food production system.
That’s my opinion, anyway. And clearly I’m not alone. And I’m glad companies are paying attention. Muir Glen tomatoes will continue to sit on my shelf for years to come, whenever I’ve used up my own home-canned goods.
But there it is, straight from the can’s lid. Muir Glen has phased out BPA in their can linings.