Tetra Paks vs. Canned Foods — Avoiding BPA and BPS

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Put the can down and no one gets hurt. I get it — canned foods can be a cheap and convenient way to meet your nutrition goals, especially when it comes to beans, veggies, and soups. So what’s all the fuss? There’s a reason why I always specify to buy your beans, broth, and plant-based milks in Tetra Paks though. Unlike other containers, like cans, Tetra Paks are BPA- AND BPS-free.

But what exactly is BPA and BPS?

BPA and BPS, or bisphenol A and bisphenol S respectively, are chemicals that are used in the production of “soft” (i.e. flexible) plastics and the linings of some metal products. The danger in using these chemicals in the production of food containers is that the chemicals from the container can seep to the food inside it, which can cause some negative health effects. In fact, a growing body of research has already linked BPA and BPS exposure to: impaired brain function, memory and learning, depression, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, breast cancer, and fertility problems.

The Food and Drug Administration maintains that very low levels of BPA or BPS are safe. However, a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that nearly every American has BPA and/or BPS in their system. Since we don’t know how much BPA or BPS you can be exposed to before increasing your risk for all of these problems, it can’t hurt to reduce your exposure. Choosing BPA- and BPS-free containers is one small way to reduce the risk of a potentially big health concern.

Many packaged food brands are switching from BPA- and/or BPS-containing cans to Tetra Pak packaging…and for good reason! Tetra Pak offers the same healthy, cost-effective, and easy-to-prepare products minus the BPA or BPS. I recommend using these paperboard cartons as a safer alternative to cans!

How do you know if a container has BPA or BPS?

Just check the recycle code! If the container has a number 3 or 7 recycle code — it contains BPA or BPS and should go back on the shelf. Otherwise, the container is BPA- and BPS-free and you’re safe to add what you’re holding to your cart.

To help make your grocery shopping experience easier though, here’s exactly what you should be doing.

  • Look out for brands that use Tetra Paks like: Simply Balanced, Imagine Foods, Pacific Foods, Whole Foods 365 Everyday Value
  • Obtain your food from the freshest source aka the one that’s the least processed/packaged! Dried organic beans are less likely to be contaminated with hormone disruptors than those from cans. Sprouted dried beans take only 5-10 minutes to cook.
  • Look for glass containers when possible. FYI, the lids for glass jars do contain BPA, so leave that extra sauce or liquid that’s stuck on the lid behind!
  • When you have no other option but to buy canned beans, choose the Eden Organics brand. Their cans are lined with baked-on oleoresinous c-enamel…in other words, their cans don’t have any traces of BPS, vinyl, acrylic, polyester, or any other icky stuff. As for tomatoes, I try my hardest to only buy them in tetra paks or glass packaging.

Of course, the realist in me realizes that when you eat out or eat at a friend’s, you may encounter foods from such containers. The lesson here though, is to simply minimize your usage of these containers. Don’t worry — you don’t have to give up your favorite restaurant or stop attending dinner parties any time soon. After all, it’s what you do most of the time, not sometimes, that makes the difference.


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