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What are your fish cans lined with? (about PET and BPA)

Here's what we know about PET and BPA, and their use and/or presence in our food packaging.

What is PET? Is it found in Vital Choice food packaging?
Polyethylene terephthalate or PET is an extremely common food packaging material, used in everything from soft drink and water bottles to peanut butter jars ... even in surgical implants.

(See "PET and phthalates are not the same", below.)

Like most food cans, our fish cans are lined with PET,  to keep the fish from acquiring a metallic taste and to prevent rusting.

Likewise, some of the plastic pouches in which our vacuum-sealed frozen fish are packaged may contain PET.
Although experts agree that more research is needed, PET has been deemed safe by the U.S. FDA and the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) for use in many food packaging applications.

Today, even the most minuscule level of migration of plastic packaging into foods can be measured. 

These tests have found that the migration of any components of PET plastics under laboratory conditions is well below the maximum safety levels set by the U.S. FDA and the EFSA.
What is BPA? Is it found in Vital Choice food packaging?
Bisphenol-A or BPA is a chemical used in the epoxy resins that line many food cans, to keep flexible enough to prevent cracking. 

These epoxy resins are used to keep canned foods from acquiring a metallic taste and to prevent rusting.

BPA is a known endocrine-disruptor, which means that it can bind to estrogen receptors and produce hormonal effects.

Minuscule traces of BPA have appeared in tests of (non-Vital Choice) foods packaged without BPA ... findings that show the ubiquity of BPA in the environment.

BPA is used in countless manufactured goods, including cash register receipt paper and other items that people handle routinely.

Accordingly, we cannot guarantee that any of our seafood cans or canned seafood products are “BPA-Free”.

And, as far as we know, no other seafood company claims their products or cans are BPA-free.

We recommend this Washington Post article on the subject: Alternatives to BPA containers not easy for U.S. foodmakers to find.

We believe that any risks posed by traces of BPA are outweighed by the large and well-documented benefits of eating seafood, but you must make your own judgement.

Here's what we know, and don't know, about the BPA status of each of our cans:

Products that probably do not contain BPA
  • Sardines and Mackerel: A statement (dated August 5, 2014) from the British maker of our Portuguese supplier's sardine and mackerel cans says that the internal lining does not intentionally contain BPA. However, they may contain other bisphenol compounds (e.g., BPS, BPF, BADGE).
Product cans that may contain BPA or other bisphenol compounds
  • Anchovy Tins – We have not been able to obtain written assurances from Agostino Recca that their tins are BPA-free.
  • Salmon - Based on prior written assurances from the companies that make the cans for our sockeye and pink salmon, we believe that our salmon cans may be BPA-free. However, in recent years, our salmon canners and their can makers have refused to renew those written assurances, citing legal and liability concerns. And they may contain other bisphenol compounds (e.g., BPS, BPF, BADGE).
  • Tuna - Based on prior written assurances from the companies that make the cans for our albacore tuna we believe that our tuna cans may be BPA-free. However, in recent years, our tuna canner and their can maker have refused to renew those written assurances, citing legal and liability concerns. And they may contain other bisphenol compounds (e.g., BPS, BPF, BADGE). Eight parts per billion BPA appeared in one test of our canned albacore tuna, possibly due to environmental contamination*.
Product cans that probably do contain BPA or other bisphenol compounds
  • Dungeness Crab and Smoked Mussels - The can makers have said in the past that they add BPA to their can linings to protect against corrosion from the high acidity of shellfish.
*You may be interested in these past newsletter articles on the subject:

PET and phthalates are not the same
Phthalates (more accurately, orthophthalates) are a family of plastic compounds used to make other plastics flexible, and have been shown to possess endocrine-disrupting properties.
Although “polyethylene terephthalate” (the plastic) and “phthalate” (the additive) may sound alike, they are chemically dissimilar.
PET is not an orthophthalate, nor does PET contain orthophthalates.

Our cans contain no phthalates, and, unlike phthalates, PET is not yet (as of 2015) proven to possess endocrine-disrupting properties.

Recent test results suggesting that PET may possess endocrine-disrupting properties are questionable, given the high risk of "false-negative" results when testing bottled water or packaged foods for endocrine-disrupting properties.

For example, a  2011 university study funded by the German government (whose authors declared no conflicts of interest) found that deep-spring water packaged in glass showed traces of endocrine-disrupting properties.

Their results suggest that spring water (or raw foods) can be contaminated with endocrine-disrupting chemicals (Wagner M, Oehlmann J 2011; section 4.3. Sources of estrogenic contamination).

  • Lyche JL, Gutleb AC, Bergman A, Eriksen GS, Murk AJ, Ropstad E, Saunders M, Skaare JU. Reproductive and developmental toxicity of phthalates. J Toxicol Environ Health B Crit Rev. 2009 Apr;12(4):225-49. Review.
  • Rider CV, Furr JR, Wilson VS, Gray LE Jr. Cumulative effects of in utero administration of mixtures of reproductive toxicants that disrupt common target tissues via diverse mechanisms of toxicity. Int J Androl. 2010 Apr;33(2):443-62. Review.
  • Wagner M, Oehlmann J. Endocrine disruptors in bottled mineral water: estrogenic activity in the E-Screen. J Steroid Biochem Mol Biol. 2011 Oct;127(1-2):128-35. doi: 10.1016/j.jsbmb.2010.10.007. Epub 2010 Nov 2.

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