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It's so hard to say goodbye to BPA

I use a can of tomato sauce every Friday night to make pizza.

I've already taken many steps to avoid BPA:
  • We use stainless steel sippy cups and water bottles instead of plastic ones.
  • We avoid any plastic marked 7, particularly food packaging/ containers and toys.
  • I avoid handling receipts and try to wash my hands afterwards if I do handle one.
  • I have stopped using most canned foods. For example, I bought a pressure cooker and started making beans from scratch.
  • We don't drink canned beverages. 
  • I am suspicious of any clear hard plastic.

But there has long been one hold out in the canned food department: tomatoes. This is somewhat tragic because tomatoes are acidic and thus more likely to involve leaching from the epoxy lining of metal cans. I did can diced tomatoes purchased in bulk at the farmer's market with my lovely friend Heidi a couple summers ago, which effectively replaced my canned diced tomatoes. But I have never stopped using canned tomato sauce (Trader Joe's organic tomato sauce, if you really want to know). And now that I am making pizza every single Friday night, I am using a lot of canned tomato sauce. One can per week to be exact.

Why don't I just use pasta sauce instead that comes in a glass jar? I tried it. Didn't like it (too watery). I can be picky like that.

Why not make and can tomato sauce myself? I suppose I could, but my friend Heidi, who has all the requisite canning equipment and know-how and made canning so painless the first time around, has moved away. At any rate, this would be quite an undertaking for me and I do not see this happening in the near future. On the bright side, I now have a huge freezer, so I'm planning to dice and freeze jars of farmer's market tomatoes this summer, enough to last during the months tomatoes are not in season in California. So that takes care of diced tomatoes at least.

Why not just switch to BPA-free canned tomatoes? They've been out there for a few years now. I'll tell you why. Because I don't just avoid BPA. I actually avoid eating plastic all together. So for years I have been hoping to find something packaged in glass that would work as a base for my pizza sauce. There were a few failed experiments. And a lot of forgetting to even bother checking for a product in glass that might work during my quarterly trip to Whole Foods. For over a year, I just kept on using my canned tomato sauce. Every now and then a little voice in the back of my mind would say, "you're feeding your family BPA." But my kids' yelling usually drowned it out.

But then EWG came out with a new Guide to BPA. And then I read this post by ecokaren about an endocrinologist who won't eat any canned tomatoes.

So that did it. BPA was on my mind again. And I decided that while I'm still searching for the perfect plastic-free tomato sauce solution, I'm going to at least avoid BPA. Then came the annoying part: identifying a BPA-free canned tomato sauce.

I found quite a few blog posts with lists of BPA-free tomato products (see additional resources below). Sometimes there was contradictory information in the comments, or between different blog posts. Many manufacturers' sites (e.g., Muir Glen, Trader Joe's) were often maddeningly silent on the subject, and only a few of the purportedly BPA-free manufacturers print "BPA-free" on the can. Bloggers often reported contacting individual companies for a response. Which is somewhat reassuring, but can I even feel completely confident in one employee's response if the company isn't willing to own the position on their official website?

At any rate, I settled on Muir Glen organic tomato sauce. Because Cook's Illustrated likes Muir Glen and I've always been happy with their tomato products. And although the cans don't say so and the website doesn't say so, I feel pretty confident they are BPA-free based on others' research and reports. And also because I was able to purchase a case from through Amazon. Because I didn't want to take my kids to Costco or Whole Foods or anywhere else shopping anytime soon, and I was afraid I would completely slip into inaction once again if I did nothing. The good news: everyone liked the pizza sauce made with the BPA-free Muir Glen organic tomato sauce. The bad news: that metal can still has an epoxy lining made of who knows what.

In other news, we recently purchased a small citrus juicer. Our new home has an orange tree, and the oranges are falling off the tree but not quite sweet enough to eat by the bucket-full. So we decided to juice them instead. Anyway, I go online to buy a juicer, and they all seem to involve clear hard plastic, with not a whiff of BPA-free to be found anywhere. I even visited manufacturers' websites to see if I could find any info. With my husband asking me several times a day if I had purchased a juicer yet, I just decided to go with a well-rated Cuisinart model that did not involve clear plastic on the food-contact parts.

Several days later, the juicer arrived, and stamped in a little corner of the box: BPA-free. I breathed a little sigh of relief.

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Additional Resources

Have you struggled to avoid BPA?
What tomato products do you use when fresh tomatoes are unavailable (or you don't feel like making pizza sauce from scratch)?