WASHINGTON — A consumer advocacy group's analysis of canned goods has found measurable levels of the chemical additive bisphenol A, or BPA, across a range of foods, including some that were labeled "BPA free."
Children eating multiple servings of some of the tested food could get doses of BPA "near levels that have caused adverse effects in several animal studies," according to the survey released Monday by Consumers Union, a nonprofit organization that publishes Consumer Reports.
The findings bolster the case for banning BPA from use in materials that come in contact with food and beverages -- such as can linings, baby bottles and sippy cups -- the group said in a letter to Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Margaret Hamburg.
An FDA spokesman had no immediate comment but noted that a review of existing evidence about BPA's health effects was nearly completed and that Hamburg would "make a decision how to proceed" by the end of the month.
BPA is a plastic hardener and a component of epoxy resin. Some studies have linked the chemical to reproductive abnormalities and increased risk of cancer and diabetes. Several governments have prohibited the sale of baby bottles made with BPA.
The FDA in 2008 released a draft report that found BPA was safe in food contact materials. But critics charged that the agency had based its report on out-of-date studies sponsored by the chemical industry, prompting the review.
A spokesman for the American Chemistry Council said the Consumers Union findings were "inconsistent with the conclusions of expert regulators worldwide, all of which have confirmed that BPA exposure levels are low, and well within safety standards."
Consumers Union tested 19 name-brand foods in metal, paper and plastic packages. The tests were "a snapshot of the marketplace" and not intended as conclusive evidence of BPA levels in any given brand or type of product.
No BPA was detected in paper canisters of Similac powdered Advance Infant Formula and Nestle Juicy Juice packed in juice boxes, the group said. But multiple servings of food with BPA levels comparable to those found in a can of Del Monte Fresh Cut Blue Lake Green Beans, for example, would give a small child an amount approaching the level where adverse effects -- such as abnormal reproductive development -- have been seen in animal studies.
A Del Monte spokeswoman said that BPA "is the best method available on the market today for food preservation" and that the company was closely following the FDA's review.
Consumers Union also found BPA in "BPA-free" cans of tuna sold by Vital Choice, a Washington-based seafood firm. Dr. Urvashi Rangan, director of technical policy at Consumers Union, said the cans did not have epoxy liners, the usual source of BPA.
Rangan said the BPA likely leached into the packaging from the factory where it was made or came from environmental sources -- seawater or the fish itself.
Vital Choice CEO Randy Hartnell said his firm was an early adopter of BPA-free packaging. "We'll get to the bottom of it and fix it," he said.
Several major retail chains have removed items containing BPA from their shelves. Six manufacturers of baby bottles agreed in March to stop selling bottles containing BPA in the U.S. Canada has forbidden use of the chemical in baby bottles, and Connecticut, Minnesota, the city of Chicago and Suffolk County, New York, have banned baby bottles and sippy cups made with BPA.