Believe it or not -- considering all of the negative publicity the chemical bisphenol A has received, resulting in efforts to ban its use in baby bottles and other items for small children -- scientists didn't get around to publishing a peer-reviewed study measuring levels of the chemical in U.S. food until this week.
The work was published online Tuesday in the journal Environmental Science & Technology.
A research team led by Arnold Schecter of the University of Texas School of Public Health measured 105 foods purchased from grocery stores in Dallas in March 2010. They detected "quantifiable levels" of bisphenol A, which is often used to line food cans and to harden plastics, in 63 of them.
Bisphenol A content was not associated with any particular type of food or packaging. Levels seemed comparable with those observed previously in other countries, the paper reported.
The scientists found quantifable levels of bisphenol A in cans of Chicken of the Sea Chunk Light Tuna in Water and in cans of Kroger Sweet Peas Garden Variety. Plastic containers of Chef Boyardee Spaghetti and Meatballs had measurable levels of the stuff, as did fresh sliced turkey. Canned Enfamil baby formula had more than canned V8 juice.
People concerned about pets might take note that Friskies Classic Pate Salmon Dinner Cat Food in a can had more bisphenol A in it than plastic containers of Cesar Chicken and Beef in Meaty Juices Puppy Food. People concerned about people might take note that both of those products contained less bisphenol A -- considerably less -- than Progresso Light Homestyle Vegetable and Rice Soup.
The worst offender tested was canned Del Monte Fresh Cut Green Beans.
In humans, bisphenol A is associated with cardiovascular disease, diabetes and male sexual dysfunction, according to the paper. In mice, it has been linked to early puberty and cancer.
The BPA levels detected by the researchers were almost 1,000 times lower than the tolerable daily intake levels set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the European Food Safety Authority, the scientists reported.
But many researchers aren't convinced that those guidelines are appropriate. The paper reported that studies have identified adverse affects at lower doses.
What it all means for the health-conscious consumer remains unclear. In the meantime, if you're worried about the possible effects of BPA, this might give you one more compelling reason to lay off the green bean casserole this Thanksgiving.