The debate over the chemical Bisphenol-A began raging about 6 years ago when my first son was an infant. At the time, BPA, as it’s called for short, was found in everything from hard plastic baby bottles to pacifiers, causing major concern. As the debate hit a fever pitch, companies (and even entire countries!) took sides. Some claimed it was safe, while others began the process of eliminating BPA from manufacturing. Though the chemical has been banned from certain manufacturing in Europe, it is still legal here in the U.S. Thankfully, though, some of the companies here have responded to the outcry and are leaving BPA behind.
One of the ways that Bisphenol-A is used is to make plastic linings for canned foods. While some companies took immediate action to eliminate BPA-laced linings with canned beans, for example, canned tomatoes presented a bigger challenge due to their high acidity. It’s taken a while for canned tomatoes to catch up—even when produced by companies that otherwise use BPA-free cans—which has landed canned tomatoes on more than one list of “foods to never eat.” Things are finally changing, though, and we’re seeing more and more safe packaged tomato options.
Here are a few BPA-free packaged tomato products to look out for. If you can’t find any of these, you might consider keeping canned tomatoes to a minimum or completely eliminating them from your family’s diet, since it may be a while before BPA-free canned tomatoes are readily available. (And remember that organic does not necessarily mean BPA-free!)
Trader Joe’s offers a line of carton packaged tomato products that are confirmed BPA-free and easy to use.
A popular brand in Europe, Pomi is becoming increasingly available in the U.S. Just like Trader Joe’s brand, Pomi packages their tomatoes in BPA-free cartons.
Eden Organics offers a line of packaged tomatoes in glass jars. The good news is that glass is BPA-free (and among the safest food packaging materials). The maybe not so good news is that the cap used to seal the glass container has two coats of sealer, the first of which contains BPA. According to their site, the second layer, which is BPA-free, seals in the first and prevents the material containing BPA from coming in contact with the tomatoes. So it’s close, but not perfect.
It’s important to note that Eden Organics also offers a line of canned tomato products that are not packaged in BPA-free cans. Avoid these if you are trying to avoid BPA.
Muir Glen has been working on—and has finally completed!—a transition to a can lining made without BPA for all of their canned tomato products. The new liner is made of food-grade vinyl, which has been approved and used in food packaging for more than 20 years. The lining does not contain phthalates (the family of chemicals to which BPA belongs) or other known harmful chemicals. Be careful, though: Not all of their BPA cans are gone from supermarket shelves. The cans have a 2 ½ year shelf life and so many are still floating around and the labeling is not different between the BPA and BPA-free cans. Your best bet it to look out for an expiration date of 2014 or after to make help ensure that you have a BPA-free can.
Bionaturae has also shifted to BPA-free cans, with their 2011 tomato harvest being the first to enjoy BPA-free packaging. To make it easy for the consumer, they have labeled cans with the following notice: The lining of this can was produced without BPA. Look out for that and you’re good to go.
Now that you can get safe and delicious packaged tomatoes, what to do with them?!
Make tomato sauce, is what!
A smooth sauce like this classic Tomato Sauce made with butter and onion can be mixed with creamy polenta and protein spiked Parmesan cheese for very early eaters. A chunky sauce—maybe with some added protein like in this Sausage Bolognese or this simple and rich Ground Turkey Ragu—can be tossed with noodles for little ones starting to manage chunks or eat with their fingers. And a rustic Pizza Sauce makes a dinner that everyone can get excited about. No matter how old your eaters, homemade tomato sauce is always great to have on hand.