Got a lot of blackberries? Then check out this recipe for Blackberry Mojito Fruit Leather.

I'm not a huge fan of fruit leathers, but this turned out super good! And, really, you can't go wrong with blackberries, mint and rum.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

BPA-free canned tomatoes

The following is an excerpt from my book, The Non-Toxic Avenger: What You Don't Know Can Hurt You, due out Fall 2011 from New Society Publishers.

Getting faked out

A while back my husband and I stopped purchasing our favorite organic canned tomato products because of the issue with the BPA lining in cans. Finding an alternative lining for highly acidic foods, like tomatoes, is an issue for manufacturers and for the most part your choices are glass jars or the aseptic packages (those cardboard boxes that look like juice boxes). I could only find tomato paste in glass jars, so if I needed diced or whole canned tomatoes, I had to opt for the one product available in aseptic cardboard, which was Pomi.

Pomi, unfortunately, wasn’t certified organic, but it was an import from Italy where they use a lot less pesticides to begin with and their parent company was a certified producer of organic foods in Italy. It was a trade-off for us as the Pomi products didn’t taste as good as the organic brand we used to use and really liked, Muir Glen.

I had seen news reports saying that Muir Glen (a General Mills brand) was in the process of reformulating their cans and that, starting with the 2010 tomato crop, their tomato products would be canned without the use of BPA. This was great news, particularly in light of the fact that our annual pledge to u-pick tomatoes and can them ourselves in glass never seems to come to fruition here in Seattle where the tomato crop can be heinously paltry. Growing our own tomatoes for this purpose every year turns out to be an enormous lesson in frustration. The microclimate in our yard, just off of Puget Sound, tends to remain cool for most of the day even in the summer and we are generally left with green tomatoes with just a few ripening each year.

However, in early December, my husband popped into the grocery store on the way home from our annual family visit to see the Gingerbread Village at the Sheraton in downtown Seattle. Hank went in to pick up some items for making manicotti and, while he was reaching for the Pomi boxes, he noticed that the Muir Glen cans advertised the fact that they were made with “enamel lined cans”. He was excited when he got out to the car as he was thinking that these were the new BPA-free cans. He was so convinced about this labeling that he almost bought Muir Glen instead. But, he knew better. I immediately went home to do some research and find out if, indeed, this was the case.

It wasn’t. Those cans still had BPA in them and, as far as I was concerned, this was extremely misleading advertising on their part. Why mention the lining of your cans unless it was something significant? Most people don’t care whether or not their cans are lined with white enamel. Many people, on the other hand, are concerned whether or not their cans are lined with BPA. In looking around for current information on the cans, I saw that the Safe Mama website had followed up with Muir Glen about a month before this incident and had managed to nail down the gory details.

In summary, the fact was that they did not have BPA-free tomato products in cans yet on the shelves and that they wouldn’t until sometime in 2011. Once they knew the date of production, the cans packaged after that production date could be considered to be BPA-free. Oddly enough, the customer service rep asked the writer from the Safe Mama whether or not she would like the cans labeled as BPA-free. Hopefully, with enough customer feedback, Muir Glen will know to label their cans with actual useful information. Until they start labeling the cans as BPA-free, it will still be a crap shoot which ones have BPA and which don’t. Even looking at the expiration date (a later date is more likely to not have BPA in them) doesn’t guarantee anything.



Do you worry about BPA in the lining of your cans or do you never buy canned tomatoes? If you can find them, Eden Organics just started selling their tomato products in amber glass jars from Ball. I have yet to see them in stores.

21 comments:

Erica said...

Would these purported Ball glass jarred tomatoes be in reusable, resealable Ball canning-type jars? If so, I would absolutely buy them. Anything that gets me more jars....

Looking forward to the rest of your book.

KimC said...

We are an active duty military family living on base in Guam. The commissary just recently stopped stocking Muir Glen, now our only choices are Hunt's or Del Monte. I'm working on growing my own, but until then, I'm going to have to buy what I can. It's BPA or no tomatoes at all.

Brenna @ Almost All The Truth said...

I do worry about BPA, but we have not gotten to the point where we can can enough for our needs. I try to not buy any canned foods, but we do buy some canned tomatoes. I hope the glass jars come to a store near me soon!

Stephany said...

We ran out of our tomatoes and bought a case of Pomi. I can't say that I notice that they are any worse or better than Muir Glen which I've had in the past but I am used to homegrown and spoiled.

I am looking forward to reading the rest of the book, too.

Jennifer @ Fast, Cheap, and Good said...

Eliminating BPA is my new project, and it is relatively difficult, for the kinds of reasons you allude to in your post. Tomatoes are certainly one of my biggest worries because of the acidity. Normally, we can our own, so when we are out we are out. This year, the tomato crop was awful, so I've had to buy a few cans, and I'm sure we've gotten some BPA along the way.

eatclosetohome said...

Eden Organic's bean are in BPA-free cans, but according to their web site, the FDA hasn't approved any non-BPA linings for high acidity foods. I hope the news from Muir Glen means that is changing!

Zaira said...

I dunno, I like the Pomi brand, O could swear I read that they're pesticide free, I know they're definitely GM free. I was buying jarred tomato products but the lids are either lined with BPA or a PVC type product. Yay (!)

Adrienne said...

I don't eat a lot of canned food; tomatoes are about the only canned thing I do eat so I just face the fact that I'm getting dosed with BPA. I guess it's better than if I ate a lot of canned stuff. I can't afford organic, BPA free or not. I'd like to learn to can my own but I have yet to find a source of local tomatoes that I could afford in any quantity, either, and I only have a patio container garden & can't grow enough to can my own.

I did notice recently that some of the cat food I bought says "BPA free" on the cans, which is nice since the cats eat almost entirely canned food.

Shelly said...

Pomi is 100% all natural. No pesticides at all. No herbicides. No genetically modified seeds. I would consider them to be organic even. Just google some recently articles about them. Great stuff

Laura said...

Why do we have to line the cans with anything? Didn't we used to can tomatoes and eat them and go on with life?

Natalie said...

Nice. I'm gonna have to put your book on my wishlist.

I, too, don't buy many canned foods, and have been finding alternatives (like cooking dried beans myself instead of buying them canned). I do still buy tomatoes in cans and occasionally coconut milk. I buy your run of the mill BPA-lined cans (cheap) and try not to worry about it. I would prefer, of course, that manufacturers didn't package my food in toxins. =/

Crunchy Chicken said...

Natalie - For your coconut milk, Native Forest products don't have BPA in their cans.

Laura - They are lined because highly acidic foods (like tomatoes) will leach aluminum into the food inside. Old cans used to be made out of tin, I think.

The Nurturing Pirate said...

I sure as heck DO worry about BPA! I haven't seen the Pomi brand in any store I visit (Trader Joes and Henry's), so until Muir Glen comes out with their BPA-free cans, I've been limiting our tomato product purchases.

Alas, I have no excuse not to grow tomatoes; I live in San Diego. Last year I was super-lucky. My friends went on vacation, leaving their heirloom tomatoes to be harvested by various friends. I tried not to be greedy, but I was over there numerious times. Maybe they'll go on vacation again! :-)

Dianna said...

BPA isn't really my main worry when I look for products. I don't like that it is used but I rather focus on how far it is traveling, how much packaging and processing goes on.

I live in Alaska so tomatoes are really hard to grow here but I want to focus on tomatoes this year. They do grow in a greenhouse or with row cloth so I having my dh build a few cheap greehouses and we are using a greenhouse on my friend's property.

I really want to eat more local food and can my own tomatoes. I can get a lot of vegetables reasonably priced in the summer at a u pick farm but tomatoes are expensive. Hopefully we will get a good crop. I don't have time or space to grow them from seed this year but plan on buying a bunch of plants.

Can you build cheap greenhouses or cover the tomatoes with row cloth? It got to be easier to grow them there than it is in Alaska.

Stephanie said...

We do Pomi, too, but I'd be thrilled to have another option in Ball jars. Thanks for the update! Don't want no BPA in my fam's food. There isn't enough info on what it does to us long term, in my opinion.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for posting this. My husband came home with Muir Glen tomatoes the other day thinking that the enamel lining was a better option which prompted me to look onto some rather vague information about removing BPA from Muir Glen tomatoe packaging. Thanks for solidifying my suspicions.

Shreela said...

I was looking at Eden Foods earlier, so I remember them having tomatoes in glass. It's crushed tomatoes, I don't see any paste. Oh, the glass is amber, to decrease light damage http://www.edenfoods.com/store/index.php?cPath=23_41

Julia's Child said...

Hi Crunchy! I too am always on the prowl for non-bpa canned goods, and it is so difficult. When I wrote my own letter to Muir Glen just earlier this year, they replied with an atrociously standardized "BPA is just fine" so just suck it up response. Bleh.
In our food coop I have access to pureed tomatoes in a glass jar, from bionature. I've been using these (and Pomi) in chilis.

Sarah said...

Even glass is not BPA free, the lids are lined with BPA. Your exposure is reduced becuase it is less surface area, but it is still there. Also Ball canning lids are lined with BPA. Tattler makes BPA free plastic canning lids.

Dmarie said...

oh, my, recently discovered their roasted tomatoes...they can really kick salsa up a few notches!! yummmmmm

Anonymous said...

BPA is a definite worry (among so many other things). I try to stay away from cans, but tend to have some on hand (usually just beans) for emergency use. I've been buying bionature organic tomato paste and strained tomatoes in jars for a while. I recently ordered the Eden crushed tomatoes in amber jars online (back in Feb when Edenfoods.com was running a special on them). Would love for my thumb to turn green so I could can my own....

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