Tag Archives: BPA

No canned tomatoes… so, then what?

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Since canned tomatoes are one of the products that has the highest amounts of BPA (due to the acidity of the tomatoes, more lining is necessary on the cans), they were one of the first things I got rid of out of my cupboard. As someone who didn’t have a ton of experience in the kitchen, but tended to use a lot of canned tomatoes in what I did cook, this was without a doubt the hardest part about getting rid of BPA for me.

Just as an example, here are a few of the “staple” meals in our house before I began this journey:

– Chili (stewed tomatoes)
– Goulash (diced tomatoes &  tomato paste)
– Spanish rice-a-roni (diced tomatoes)

So, what are the options if you don’t use canned tomatoes?

Fresh tomatoes – this would be ideal, right? Garden fresh (or grocery store fresh) tomatoes for all meals requiring tomatoes. Except… who has time to blanch, skin, and slice tomatoes before making a meal that would otherwise only take 15-20 minutes to make?  This was not an ideal solution for me – I tend to decide what I’m cooking about 5 minutes before start. Besides, fresh tomatoes aren’t always the best year-round.

BPA-free cans – Muir Glen, a General Mills family product, announced in 2010 that they’d be switching to BPA-free cans for their tomatoes “at the next harvest.” In 2011 I came across an article that pointed to these being in stores. I apparently don’t shop at stores that carry this brand, as the only time I’ve ever seen them was when I was working at the General Mills headquarters and I stopped by their on-site store. One thing that makes me nervous about these is that they still have to be lined with something due to the acidity of the tomatoes. Muir Glen/General Mills, as far as I know, haven’t provided info on what they’re lining the cans with now.

Alternate commercial packaging – jarred tomatoes and tomatoes in cartons (or Tetra Pak) are the two options I found here. Both are surprisingly hard to come by. In fact, I have never seen either option at Target or Walmart. I did find tomatoes in cartons on Amazon from Pomi. The downside to these is that they’re expensive, and they don’t come in the traditional sizing that canned tomatoes are in, so you have to plan a bit when following a recipe. I also haven’t been able to find them locally. The company seems pretty committed to providing a quality, BPA-free tomato product, and so far they’ve got an A+ in my  book.

Stewed tomatoes

Stewed tomatoes

Home canned (jarred) tomatoes – my mom and I canned about 40lbs of tomatoes this past fall. My mom has canned many times, but this was my first time participating as an adult. It wasn’t the most awesome experience ever, but it also wasn’t horrible, and I’ll be doing it again this fall – hopefully with home-grown tomatoes. We made stewed tomatoes and tomato soup. Besides the time and effort needed for this, a downside again is that the jars aren’t the typical sizes called for in recipes. I am aware that the lids of these jars contain BPA, but since I personally canned them, I know that the tomatoes didn’t touch the lids. There are BPA-free lids that can be used, but from the research I’ve done, I want to be a bit more experienced with canning before I use them.

Frozen tomatoes – this is an option I need to explore a bit more. Though my freezers are currently close to capacity (some organization would likely help!), the convenience of having tomatoes in the freezer might even be worth adding another freezer.

So – there are definitely options if you decide to get rid of the cans in your home. As you can see from my descriptions, I use several options together – sometimes certain options work better for a recipe than others. It’s all pretty much trial and error – hopefully this post will eliminate some of the error for others!

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BPA: Not welcome here…

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I’ve mentioned that overall I’m not into the all-natural trend. However, because I’ve chosen to try to eliminate as much BPA from our lives as possible, a lot of times my only option for certain BPA-free things is to go with all-natural options, or to simply make things myself.

Why have I specifically chosen BPA as the chemical that I’m trying to eliminate from our diets?

Well, according to Wikipedia, BPA, or bisphenol-A, is thought to be an endocrine disruptor – in effect it acts like a hormone in the body (specifically estrogen). There aren’t really any concrete studies that show this to be true, at least not for humans, but in the animal testing that’s been done, several icky effects of elevated BPA levels have been noted:

– Links between high levels of BPA and obesity
– Interference with brain cell connections vital to memory, learning, and mood
– Increases dopamine activity, which makes one more likely to have ADD, ADHD
– Heightened sensitivity to drugs of abuse
– Increased risk of breast cancer and prostate cancer

Wikipedia.org

There are plenty of other items on the list, but the above are the scariest/most concerning to me. Almost daily we can find a news story about the obesity epidemic in our nation, as can we find an article about cancer.

Do I think BPA is the sole cause of these things? Likely not. But if I can reduce the chances of my family having to experience any of those negative effects, I will – and it’s really not that difficult, thankfully!

So, what are the biggest sources of BPA in our diets/lives?

– Plastic containers, specifically reusable containers (microwave dishes, storage containers, etc).
– Soda cans. Yep… just another reason to kick that soda habit!
– Canned foods, especially tomatoes and green beans

For someone like me, who initially wasn’t interested in cooking beyond what I could prepare from a package (and who also really enjoys her soda!), seeing that list almost made me want to cry. My cupboards were stocked with canned foods – especially tomatoes; we usually had several 12-packs of soda on hand; and plastic microwave dishes were all we had.

To be honest, my journey into learning to cook more, and be more “domesticated,” stemmed mostly from my research and desire to eliminate/greatly reduce the BPA in our lives. And it really hasn’t been so bad. Yes, we still use plastic containers, but typically heat up our food with our Corelle dishes. I have all but eliminated canned food – and I’ve found that once you switch to freezer or fresh (or a combo, which is necessary here in the winter) – canned food has a distinctively metallic taste (gross!) anyway. As for soda? Well… I still like it too much to give it up, so I’ve tried to switch to bottled as much as I am able – though cans still show up in our house from  time to time.

Some of the harder things have been finding a substitute for canned food items that aren’t available fresh all year. Pumpkin? Try finding a pumpkin in a grocery store in Minnesota in the winter or spring. Tomatoes? Yeah, you can find them all year round, but they aren’t always so great (looks- or taste-wise). How about the Thanksgiving staple of cranberry sauce – the jellied kind that comes out of the can with the lines still molded into it? Well, after an experience trying to make my own – I did some research and was SO happy to find that the linings of cranberry cans DO NOT contain BPA (yay!)

As I continue on this search for BPA-free items, I’ve found that we end up reducing our exposure to other non-desirable things in food as well. Soy (a phytoestrogen possibly linked to breast cancer), MSG, food dyes, preservatives, etc… a lot of those things are gone or nearly eliminated from our diets. I’ll detail some of my choices for replacements and some of my struggles in making or obtaining BPA-free replacements in future posts.