Is BPS the New Mystery Chemical in BPA-free Plastic Food Containers and Cans?

Is BPS the New Mystery Chemical in BPA-free Plastic Food Containers and Cans?  by

I’ve heard a lot of panic about bisphenol-S (BPS) substitution for bisphenol-A (BPA) in sippy cups and water bottles, because as a new compound, little is known about its safety.   A recent study indicates that even though it doesn’t leach as easily, BPS is likely to cause problems similar to BPA by disrupting estrogen.

I’ve been researching the prevalence of BPS in plastic food containers and canned foods for several months and here’s what I’ve found so far:

  • While there has been a documented substitution of BPS for BPA in thermal paper and dollar bills, I haven’t found any documented cases of BPS being substituted for BPA in plastic bottles and food storage. Folks seem to be drawing that conclusion from this study.
  • There are a couple of newer BPA-free plastics I’m uncomfortable with because the ingredient lists remain undisclosed and not enough validated testing has been done to confirm the lack of estrogenic activity.
  • As for BPS in canned foods: this a greater possibility.  We were super excited to hear that Campbell’s is phasing out BPA in its metal can linings, but the excitement wore off quickly when they refused to disclose what alternative lining will be used instead.  And some of the possible alternatives like PVC and BPS are obviously worrisome.

How to Choose Safer Plastic Dishes and Food Containers

I’ve written about all of this in our free Guide to Researching Safer Plastics ebook, but here’s the basic gist:

  1. Choose dishes and food containers made from plastics that never contained BPA in the first place, like polypropylene (PP), HDPE/LDPE, and silicone (talking about silicone dishes here, not bakeware).  They have a much better long-term track record than any other plastics and haven’t been recently switched to BPA-free materials.
  2. Only purchase canned and jarred food from companies who make it clear what their BPA-free lining is made from.  Bionaturae and its sister company, Jovial, are fantastic examples of companies with a conscience who use truly responsible food packaging.
  3. Don’t even bother with products made by secretive manufacturers with mystery chemicals they refuse to disclose.

As my friend Beth of My Plastic Free Life points out, this process of trying to determine what chemicals a product already contains – and whether those chemicals are toxic – is COMPLETELY backwards!

The safest solution is to avoid newer plastics and stick with stainless steel or glass whenever you can.

In the meantime, I’ll continue watching for new research and will keep you updated!

P.S.  Check out our Safer Food Storage Shopping Guide for plenty of great options.

P.P.S.  AS, SAN (used in Brita Water Pitchers), and ABS have a good track record for non-leaching stability so far too.  Read more about that here.

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Alicia Voorhies is a Registered Nurse who decided to take a break to relax and enjoy her young kids after 13 years of working with disabled adults. She began to explore the world of alternative health ideas and was immediately attracted to the mysteries of endocrine disruptors and their effect on children. In 2007 she founded The Soft Landing along with her mom and sisters to help parents provide a safe, natural home for their children without drowning in an overwhelming sea of information.

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  • Adri

    What do you think about boxes (like Sig) and their inner lining? We avoid cans but if the alternative is just as bad, I don’t want to use it either. Thanks!

    • The Soft Landing Sisters

      I haven’t researched the aluminum SIGG boxes in several years, so I’m not sure what lining they’re using these days. If you want to contact them and ask about it, I’ll review the info if you send it to me at alicia[at]thesoftlanding[dot]com. ~Alicia

  • ECOlunchboxes

    thanks so much alicia for continuing to educate about plastics. you have been an important voice over the years and continue to “pull back the curtain” on what’s under the surface of all the plastics in our lives. thank you! your comment regarding sticking with stainless steel and glass resonated with me 110%. it’s so tricky to understand as a lay person all the emergent chemicals used in plastics, that i started @ecolunchboxes:disqus to make available a simplier and safer lunchware options while scientists sort out what’s safe and not safe when it comes to plastics!

    • The Soft Landing Sisters

      It really can be totally overwhelming, so I’m glad it helped Sandra! And you know how much I love ECOlunchboxes ~Alicia

  • Jeff

    Thanks for this informative article. I’ve contacted a few businesses who package their foods/beverages in #7 plastics to understand their use of #7 (which upon investigating informed me that their #7 is a “safe” non BPA material identified as Eastman’s Tritan co-polyester). Have you had the same experience that this is showing up in consumer products as a plastic #7? Thanks for your work!

    • The Soft Landing Sisters

      You’re welcome, Jeff! Tritan use is becoming widespread and I’ve run into it repeatedly. It is often the main player in the #7 category. I just wish we knew what it was made from and that more validated studies had been done to confirm it’s safety before it became so widespread. ~Alicia

  • Jen

    My kids have many food allergies and I need to make a lot of products myself. I recently got a Vitamix as a gift and use it to make my own flours and butters and other foods that aren’t easy to find or are very expensive. I read up on the Eastman’s Tritan Co-polyester and I’m a bit torn. Not loving it for the same reason as you stated but given that there isn’t a similar product that has a glass container, I didn’t have any other options. I use it daily but mainly for cold products. The food items are in it for about 90 seconds. I wash it with just hot tap water (never in the dish washer). How much of a risk do you think it really poses? I try to avoid plastic where possible but sometimes it’s impossible. I can buy expensive nut butter that’s in a plastic container (albeit likely PP) for months before it even gets opened or have it in the Tritan Co-polyester for 1-3 minutes. Sometimes it’s hard to know which choice is better.

    • The Soft Landing Sisters

      It really is a tough one, Jen. I really think you’re doing fine with the way you’re using the Vitamix: keeping it for cold items, making it quick, and handwashing. I wouldn’t get overly worried – I think you’re doing a great job! ~Alicia

  • Stephanie Moram

    Thanks, Alicia! Been wondering what BPA was replaced with. Sadly, doesn’t look any better.

    • The Soft Landing Sisters

      Yes, it’s depressing to think that they’re just switching one bad apple out for another, Stephanie. ~Alicia

  • Lori Popkewitz Alper

    Great information Alicia. I’ve been writing about this issue for quite some time. I’ve been waiting for studies to actually confirm that BPA substitutions are potentially just as dangerous. The system truly is backwards!

    • The Soft Landing Sisters

      Thanks Lori! I just keep hoping someone will tackle this issue and get some validated research done too. It’s hard to make recommendations when manufacturers are allowed to put whatever they want into our everyday products without proving their safety first. It leaves us parents to do an unrealistic amount of detective work – some of which never uncovers any answers! ~Alicia

  • Kristina Greene

    Awesome info! I have been trying to just avoid most plastics wherever possible but it gets tough at times. This system of “use it until it’s proven toxic” is EVERYWHERE! So ridiculous!

    • The Soft Landing Sisters

      Thanks Kristina! My goal is to avoid plastics too (especially disposables, #3, #6 and #7), but sometimes there just isn’t a substitute, so I just want everyone to be able to make a more informed decision. ~Alicia

  • ConcernedChemist

    Um no.
    The replacements are generally polyester based co-polymers or acrylics.
    BPS was eliminated years ago by design due to the di phenyl chemistry aspect.

    • The Soft Landing Sisters

      Thanks for your input. That’s basically what I found too. ~Alicia

  • Pingback: Quick Action: Ask Vita-Mix to bring back the stainless steel blender pitcher! :: My Plastic-free Life()

  • Organic Snob

    What are your thoughts on Tetra Brik Packs? (Broths, So Delicious Coconut Milks, etc.). I read that they are coated in plastic to prevent seepage & sprayed with disinfectant to discourage bacteria growth and extend unrefrigerated shelf life. Would this place them in the dangerous category as well?

    • The Soft Landing Sisters

      The Tetra Paks I’ve researched have an interior layer of polyethylene which doesn’t worry me too much, but I’ve never heard of them being sprayed with disinfectant – ewwww! That could be problematic depending on what they’re using, and I’d be very interested to know what the real story is on that. ~Alicia

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