Carla Bartolucci founded Bionaturae 18 years ago with her Italian husband. She has two children and worries about toxic chemicals just like we do. She's been feeding her own family organic foods for many, many years in an effort to keep their toxic chemical exposure to a minimum.
I found her personal insight on food packaging, BPA alternatives and the canning industry to be a breath of fresh air. Here's what we talked about…
What's taking so long to complete the shift to BPA-free cans?
Carla explained that there’s an awful lot that goes into food packaging.
It’s a very difficult process to determine what effects the packaging has on the food it contains and it's hard to get answers from the industry. Over the years, I learned everything I know by doing non-stop investigation for the health of my own family. I see myself as just another mom, asking the same questions you're asking. The only difference is that I'm doing it right in the middle of the big canning industry meetings. And you can be sure that I get the same exasperated looks you do.
She went on to say that once you find a suitable lining, the trouble doesn't end there.
On top of finding a truly safer substitute, it’s hard to convince the big canning industry to make such a drastic change, especially if you’re small. Muir Glen was able to convince the industry because they were able to gather enough media attention to make it happen.
Eden Foods reported having to work hard to convince one of their suppliers to fill an order for an older, resin-based can lining. Good magazine quotes Pamela Stepka, the company’s food safety coordinator, as saying, “To this day, what we order is a special order. They have to clear the line at the factory.”
For smaller outfits, it's worse yet. We’ve heard the same sentiment from several smaller canned food makers, such as Two Guys in Vermont, who explained that they don’t have Eden’s influence or buying power, so they’re unable to convince packaging companies to work with their small orders. They opted for glass packaging instead.
The Packaging Process and its Effects on the Lining of Canned Foods
Carla was careful to point out that some of the difficulty lies in the canning process.
First the product is placed in the can, the cap is put in place, and then it's submerged in a bath of boiling water (anyone who's canned food at home understands this process well). Here's where the problem comes in: chemical leaching can happen right when the food is added to the can. We all know that the more you cook the tomatoes, the better they taste, right? So if you’re a manufacturer who's not concerned about heat, even more leaching can occur.
I'm sure you're aware that the FDA continues to say that BPA is safe in plastics if you don’t heat it. Well, in this case it’s already been heated before you ever got it home, so you need a lining that can withstand the heating process, as well as a company who uses lower temperatures to process the tomatoes.
A Safer Alternative to BPA
So what did the Bionaturae team finally decide to use for their new BPA-free can linings? They researched a wide range of alternatives from BPS to BPF, PVC, polyester and polypropylene. After extensive experimentation and testing, they finally settled on a polyester coating that contains no PVC. Bionaturae's BPA-free canned tomatoes now sport a new label that clearly states: “The lining of this can was produced without BPA.” No guessing which cans are which? What a rarity!
On a final note, Carla wanted to be sure we understood that their new lining does not guarantee a 100% BPA free product due to the possibility of cross-contamination with other lining material that does contain BPA when the tin is manufactured. At this time, she doesn't know of any dedicated BPA free tin or can manufacturing facilities. But that's the great thing about trustworthy companies like Bionaturae – we can actually believe it when they promise to to stay on top of the issue and make every effort to supply us with the safest option available.
P.S. You should also know that all Bionaturae tomatoes are grown on their farm, packed fresh, and never stored in plastic or repacked.